To the editor:
During our time together in Congress, I've had the great pleasure of calling Richie Neal my colleague, friend and brother. Richie has proven himself to be a fighter and a champion for middle- and working-class families in Western and Central Massachusetts and across our nation. Now more than ever, we need his expertise, thoughtfulness and leadership. That's why I emphatically endorse U.S. Rep. Richie Neal, D-Springfield, for reelection.
Since becoming the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — a leadership appointment that I wholly supported — Richie has consistently used this national leadership position to listen, learn and amplify the voices of underrepresented populations. In his first months as chairman, he held hearings on how to address racial disparities and social determinants in the nation's maternal mortality crisis, at a time when no one else would pay attention to the issue. Richie shows up for the fight always ready to speak out and help those most in need.
In the wake of COVID-19, Richie worked tirelessly to secure a series of packages to provide relief for businesses, families and health care providers. In an absence of leadership from the White House, Richie emerged as a champion determined to address the crisis quickly — critical action that has saved lives and livelihoods. In the face of daily tragedy, Richie listened to people on the front lines and used his power to hold the first virtual hearing in the 231-year history of the U.S. House of Representatives, which was on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. The message of that history-making moment was clear: As people of color were faced with injustice in health outcomes, Richie listened first then stepped up with action.
Over the years, I have gotten to know Richie quite well, sitting next to him on the Ways and Means Committee. I know firsthand his steadfast commitment to fighting on behalf of working families and giving a voice to the voiceless. I have come to admire Richie for his deep devotion to civil rights, commitment to equality and desire to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Richie joined me as we marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when in 1965 my fellow civil rights marchers and I were beaten for peacefully protesting racial discrimination. Today we are once again fighting forces of discrimination and injustice, and Richie is on the front lines with me, standing up to Donald Trump and those working against progress in America.
I have had a front row seat to Richie's fierce advocacy for Western and Central Massachusetts. We all need Richie leading the charge for advancing equality, expanding access to health care, combating income disparities and supporting services that empower our communities.
Richie approaches each challenge with a deeply committed work ethic and a fierce dedication to his roots and community. I urge you to vote for him in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary Election on Sept. 1.
The writer is the U.S. representative for Georgia's 5th District.