Congresswoman Terri Sewell could become next Black woman in U.S. Senate
(Screenshot from Cross Connection on MSNBC)
In an Saturday interview that touched on COVID-19 relief, minimum wage, and upcoming stimulus payments, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL) indicated that she may seek Alabama's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, left open by retiring Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL).
With the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge as the backdrop, Sewell debuted as a guest on MSNBC's Cross Connection. The show, hosted by Tiffany Cross, is the network's latest program to be led by a Black woman. And discussion of the political influence of Black women stood front and center during the interview.
On the subject of representation in the Senate, Cross did not mince words and directly confronted Sewell on the matter of whether she would run for Shelby's seat. Sewell, 56, was Shelby's former intern during her time as a Princeton undergraduate. She is the only Democrat from Alabama's Congressional delegation.
"So i have to ask you," began Cross. "Black women were integral to delivering the power of the government to Democrats, yet, right now Black women are not represented in the Senate at all...will you, Congresswoman, run for senate in Alabama?"
Sewell's answer was indirect, but her response did indicate a passionate desire to serve the voices of Black American women in the United States Senate.
“Black women have helped deliver Biden to the White House. We helped deliver Senator Doug Jones to the Senate, and I do believe we deserve a seat at the table," said Sewell. "Obviously, we’ll look very closely at it. The opportunity to represent my home district —Selma, Alabama, Montgomery, Birmingham, the civil rights district—is the honor of a lifetime for me. I’ve worked hard over the last 10 years and here’s what I know for sure: Black women need a seat at the table.
“We’ve earned that right and we are obviously missing that seat in the Senate. And it’s going to be critically important that we have a seat at the table and that we help set the agenda.
“I look forward to exploring my options when it comes to that, but I want you to know that I am committed to making sure that we represent Alabama, all Alabamians, in the United States House of Representatives, and I look forward to continuing to do that,” she concluded.
Sewell also expressed optimism about the pending $1.9 trillion COVID-19 legislation, assuring the public that President Joe Biden and the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill would work on behalf of the public to provide assistance from Washington, D.C. She went on to highlight the need to address both pandemic and weather related suffering across the country, while taking special care to note that the American people are "hurting unequally."
"We know that a a disproportionate amount of the burden, of the pain, is being felt by communities of color and under-served communities across this nation," said Sewell. "Help is on the way and we will do all we can to pass this into law."
When Cross inquired about the fate of the proposed $15 per hour minimum wage hike, Sewell maintained her positive outlook for change while acknowledging shortcomings with the current federal minimum wage statute.
"We are now in control of the House, the Senate, and the White House and I know that my constituents deserve a livable wage," Sewell said.
"The fact is that in the state of Alabama we're still stuck at the federal min wage of $7.25. it's simply not enough for anybody to live off of and we must increase it...when i think about my small business, my minority and women owned businesses, they are struggling, but they too want to provide their employees with a livable wage.
We will fight to make sure that we do increase the federal minimum wage. Fifteen dollars an hour will still leave a lot of my constituents behind. But i think we have to do our very best to make sure that that all Americans have enough money in their pockets to provide for themselves and their families."
The Congresswoman also shared her belief that Alabama might one day return to being run by a Democratic majority, saying, “I disagree with the premise that somehow Alabama is not, we cannot turn Alabama blue like we did Georgia."
“The reality is that we can expand the electorate. The reality is that the African-American community, both men and women, really did deliver that win for Doug Jones. And I know that it is a steep climb, but I also know that we are resilient people, and that African American women, if anyone can do it, that we can...so, look, politics is politics, but I also know that the South is rising again and we cannot, cannot leave us behind.”