Kirsten Gillibrand: ‘Now is the time to fight like hell’

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Little Village is posting videos of all 19 speeches made by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, so readers can hear each candidate in his or her own words.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaking at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, June 9, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand started her speech at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration by recounting how a Fox News anchor described her: “Not very polite.”

“I proudly count myself among the ‘formerly well-behaved women’ fighting back — the women in this room, the men who love us,” the New York Democrat said. “We are rising up and we are demanding our rights and our voices. Women are on fire in America today.”

Most of the senator’s five-minute speech was focused on women, celebrating the fact that women played a major role in taking back the U.S. House of Representatives — including the first two women elected to the House from Iowa, Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer — while also warning that, “Across this country, right-wing politicians, and a whole lot of men, are making decisions about our reproductive freedom.”

“Now is not the time to be polite, now is not the time for small steps,” Gillibrand said. “Now is the time to fight like hell.”

It was a narrower and different approach than the one Gillibrand took during her February campaign appearance in Iowa City. Speaking at The Airliner, she stressed her ability to work with Republicans to get meaningful legislation passed.

“Even in this last congress, I passed 18 bills with a Republican House, Senate and president,” Gillibrand told an overflowing crowd at The Airliner in February. “Stuff that helps Iowa, like rural broadband, and made-in-America manufacturing and more money for baby boomers who want to sell their businesses to their employees. Very simple stuff, but I always can find common ground with somebody.”

At the Hall of Fame celebration, Gillibrand cited two specific policies she’d implement as president.

“I was the first presidential candidate to pledge that I will only nominate justices and judges who see Roe v. Wade as a precedent,” the senator told the audience of party activists and elected officials. “I am also going to codify Roe, and I will repeal Hyde, so that women of color and low-income women also get access to abortion services.”

“In fact, I don’t think there is room in our party for a Democratic candidate who does not support women’s full reproductive freedom,” she added.

That last remark seemed to be aimed at Joe Biden, who changed his stance on the Hyde Amendment — which prohibits the use of any federal funds for abortion services, expect to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest — announcing earlier this month that he’s now opposed to the amendment, after supporting it for 43 years.

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Although Gillibrand’s rhetorical focus was on women, she also stressed there is no such thing as just a “women’s issue,” because those issues impact everyone.

“When America’s families succeed, we all succeed,” Gillibrand said. “That is why I will pass my family bill of rights in the first 100 days of being president.”

Gillibrand did not explain what the family bill of rights is. It did not receive much media attention when she proposed it last month.

The bill lists “five fundamental rights.”

• The right to a safe and healthy pregnancy

• The right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of income or sexual orientation

• The right to a safe and affordable nursery

• The right to personally care for your loved ones while still getting paid, including care for your child in its infancy

• The right to affordable child care and early education before kindergarten is available publicly

“Now is not the time to settle for the status quo, or to compromise or to be polite,” Gillibrand said. “Now is the time that we must be brave.”

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