Jan Schakowsky, the U.S. Representative for the 9th Congressional District of Illinois, spoke with Northwestern College Democrats on Monday, Nov. 8, about her experience in Congress and the current state of the Democratic Party.

Rep. Schakowsky began her speech with a call to action: “We need to get to work right now.” She said that 2021 is an off-year from Congressional elections, so young people have to take the time “to be mobilizing, to be organizing, to be recruiting, to be registering voters, to figure out our strategy, to get petition[s] signed for people who want to run for office.”

Regarding the state elections last week, Schakowsky emphasized that Democrats were thriving, even though Friday, Nov. 5, was a tumultuous day for the party. Last week’s elections resulted in tight gubernatorial races, notably in New Jersey, where Democratic Governor Phil Murphy maintained a slim lead, and in Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe by a narrow margin.

Schakowsky also touched on the recent infrastructure bill which passed Congress last Friday, the same day as the gubernatorial elections. According to Schakowsky, the bill allots $17 billion to the state of Illinois, which she hopes will be used to address the issue of lead pipes that have remained prominent throughout the state. The bill adds an amendment to address the threat of lead contaminants in public drinking water.

Alongside the infrastructure bill, the Democrat drew attention to the Build Back Better bill, which she said will address the lack of childcare subsidies in the United States.

“In this [COVID-19] pandemic, about five million women left the workforce because they had no childcare,” she said.

Schakowsky also said that the Build Back Better bill would contain a child tax credit, meaning “thousands of dollars are going to go into the households in order to help them support their families.” The bill also focuses on home care for seniors. Schakowsky said the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill are necessary  to deliver for the American people, especially for Americans that feel they have been left out of the conversation in Congress.

Schakowsky addressed the threat to voting rights and election security around the country. The Congresswoman believes that the right to vote is fundamental in upholding democracy and said she works to ensure that suffrage is expanded to more Americans. She also addressed Republican attempts at voter suppression through supporting measures like one that would permit legislatures to challenge the results of an election.

Schakowsky thinks that the United States has become more polarized than ever before.

“The truth isn’t truth,” she said. “And then you can just make stuff up and put it out there for everyone to see online.”

The importance of maintaining Democratic control over Congress and the White House was an important focus for Schakowsky’s talk. Victory on both bills would establish a winning streak for the Democratic party.

“If we lose the House or the Senate, or God forbid both, you will see [Congress] return to Trump-era legislation,” she said.

Thumbnail courtesy of NU College Democrats.