Plans to improve roads, bridges and internet access, and to expand education and child care access, top Sen. Raphael Warnock’s agenda as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with The Walton Tribune and The Covington News, Warnock said he’s been busy trying to pass legislation that will bring aid for families — and now he wants to pass the ambitious American Jobs Plan.
“I’m proud of the ways the people of Georgia are standing up in heroic ways, making the best they can out of their lives,” Warnock said Thursday.
“I’ve been busy through the American Rescue Plan, which we passed, making sure we get vaccinations into people’s bodies, and needed resources into their bank accounts, to make sure they survive.”
The plan, which brought stimulus checks to millions of Americans and funded vaccines, passed along party lines. It wouldn’t have happened without Georgia voters sending Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff to the Senate in a January runoff.
But for Warnock, it’s just the start.
“Now that we have passed this bill that enables us to survive, we’ve got to pass the American Jobs Plan to help us thrive,” he said. “Our country needs a home improvement project, and that’s what infrastructure is all about.”
A $2.65 trillion spending package would rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges and create energy jobs “that will create economic growth in the short term and position our country to lead in the 21st century, as we did in the 20th century,” Warnock said.
A key component for the senator is broadband access for rural parts of the nation, especially Georgia.
“Farmers understand you can’t even farm efficiently if you can’t get online, and there are huge swaths of our state with inadequate broadband infrastructure,” Warnock said. “Almost 40% of our state has only one choice for broadband, and about 10% of our state has no broadband at all.
“Broadband really is — in the 21st century, it’s a utility. The way to think about it is the way we thought about lights coming on in another century. Sure, people had kerosene lights, but that would not suffice, and no internet will not suffice.”
Another initiative of President Joe Biden’s administration, backed by Warnock, is the American Families Plan. It’s a $1.5 billion effort that would fund two years of pre-K education and two years of community college for all Americans, and provide direct support to ensure that no family spends more than 7% of its income on child care.
The bill also would extend various tax credits for families.
Tax rates on the highest-earning Americans would rise to levels before the tax cuts passed under former President Donald Trump in 2017, and certain capital income tax breaks would end.
“Here’s what we’re not going to do: We’re not going to raise the taxes on Americans that make less than $400,000 a year,” Warnock said. “But I do think that billionaires and billion-dollar corporations need to stand up.”
Warnock recently wrapped up his first 100 days in office, a whirlwind time that began Jan. 20, hours after Biden’s inauguration.
A 51-year-old Savannah native and senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Warnock said he’s still in awe.
“Representing the people of the state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate is, for a kid who grew up in public housing, an honor beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “I spend every day here in the Senate thinking about how ordinary families like my own family are trying to figure out how to help their kids finish college or vocational school, how to try to take care of Grandma in the evening of her years, and how to keep the promises that all of us make to our children.”
Warnock won the seat in a special election to succeed Johnny Isakson, a Republican who stepped down at the end of 2019 midway through his third term due to health issues.
Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler, an Atlanta business executive, who served pending an election in November 2020. Warnock led a 22-person field with all candidates running on a single ballot despite party affiliations and won a runoff against Loeffler in January.
The victories by Ossoff over incumbent David Perdue and Warnock over Loeffler gave Georgia two Democratic senators for the first time since the Max Cleland and Zell Miller between 2000-03.
Warnock will run for a full term next year. Trump has pushed Herschel Walker to run for the Republicans, though the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t declared his candidacy.