Biden administration needs bipartisan solutions for older Americans, lawmakers say

The incoming Biden administration needs to push for bipartisan support to address issues that most concern older Americans, such as COVID-19 relief and the economy, lawmakers and experts said Tuesday. 

Older Americans have historically been the most reliable voting bloc and they’re also among those most impacted by coronavirus. In addition, they, like most Americans, have been severely impacted by the economic downturn spurred by the pandemic. 

“Here in Hawaii, our seniors, we call them our ‘kupuna,’ our kupuna are our most precious resource, they are irreplaceable pillars of our community, they are a critical voting bloc and they want Congress to work together,” Rep.-elect Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) said at The Hill’s “New Year, New Leaders: What’s Next for the 50+ Voter?” event.

Kahele said constituents are frustrated with the lack of progress mitigating the coronavirus pandemic, with relief getting delayed by partisan intransigence, and voters will expect bipartisan coordination in the coming legislative term.

“They want Washington to work together and that’s really, really important for my district…in terms of Medicare, Medicaid, social security and of course the vaccination and getting that out to our most critical people throughout our community,” he said.

Vermont state Sen.-elect Kesha Ram (D) said that this new year is “both an incredible time full of opportunity” and a “time where we need to take stock of who we are as Americans and how we move forward together.”

Ram, who was the youngest person elected to multiple offices, said generations must work together to benefit all Americans.

“As a Democrat and a young person, hearing in certain pockets of the country, particularly Republican rhetoric around ‘let’s let people die, let’s sacrifice our elders for the economy,’ was pretty horrific and certainly not what I hear from a majority of Americans or Vermonters that I interact with,” she said. “We need to hear more rhetoric that we are all in this together, we need to take care of our seniors and our children.”

Ram emphasized that the incoming presidential administration must listen to the needs of over 50 years old Americans who are one of the most vulnerable populations in the pandemic.

“I think it’s going to be up to the Biden-Harris administration to do a lot of listening, a lot of affirming people’s experiences and distributing a lot of relief to the states and we will further distribute that to businesses and municipalities and school districts so that we can right this,” she said at the event sponsored by AARP.

Fontana, Calif., Mayor Acquanetta Warren (R) told The Hill’s Steve Clemons that it is time for federal leaders to “bring the people factor back.”

“Forget about party, forget about ethnicity, forget about everything, just get it done because it impacts people,” she said.

Heather Booth, former senior engagement director on the Biden-Harris campaign, said President-elect Joe Biden’s team has always focused on older voters and their concerns will be top-of-mind in his  upcoming term. 

“Those issues of our healthcare, and how to deal with the pandemic, economic insecurity, unemployment, getting good wages and getting rehired and then building the basis of a caring society, these I think are the prime concerns of senior citizens and it’s also the main pillars of the Biden campaign for Build Back Better,” she said.

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