Read excerpts from Stacey Abrams' Democratic rebuttal to the State of the Union

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

CBSN

Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who narrowly lost Georgia's gubernatorial election in November, is set to deliver the Democratic rebuttal to President Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday evening. Abrams will deliver the address from her hometown of Atlanta.

In excerpts of the speech released prior to the president's address, Abrams emphasizes the importance of bipartisanship and the need to avoid another government shutdown like the one which left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay for 35 days.

"Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn't received a paycheck in weeks," Abrams will say, accusing Mr. Trump of "making their livelihoods a pawn for political games."

Mr. Trump initially refused to sign a government funding bill without money for a border wall, but eventually conceded to Democrats and signed a continuing resolution to reopen the government on Jan. 25. The government is set to shut down again on Feb. 15 if a deal is not reached.

Abrams will allude to her time as the minority leader of the Georgia state House of Representatives, saying that in times of difficulty in the state, "the leaders of our state didn't shut down — we came together. And we kept our word."

"It should be no different in our nation's capital. We may come from different sides of the political aisle; but, our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable," Abrams will say.

In her speech, Abrams will also discuss voting rights, as she has long advocated for greater access to the ballot.

"This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country. We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a 'power grab,'" Abrams will say, referencing a recent speech where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of a "power grab" by supporting making election day a federal holiday.

"The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders — not where politicians pick their voters," Abrams will say.

Abrams was defeated by Republican Brian Kemp in November, after prevailing in a close primary in part because she opted to focus on drawing out like-minded liberal voters instead of attempting to broaden her appeal to swing voters. The strategy was an outgrowth of her work with the New Georgia Project, an officially nonpartisan organization she helped establish that registered tens of thousands of mostly minority voters across the state beginning during the 2014 election cycle.

If she had won, Abrams would have been the first black female governor in the country. She remains a popular politician among Democrats, and a leader on the grassroots left. In late November, the Abrams-backed group Fair Fight Action filed a federal lawsuit challenging the way Georgia's elections are run.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters last week he had asked Abrams to deliver the rebuttal three weeks ago.

"She is just a great spokesperson. She's an incredible leader. She has led the charge for voting rights which is at the root of just about everything else," Schumer said. "And she really has, if you look at her background, she knows what middle class people, working class people go through."

Stacey Abrams wields political power, despite not being a lawmaker

The response is a tradition undertaken by a representative of the president's opposing party, who gives a speech immediately after the State of the Union to rebut claims made in his address. The first rebuttal was delivered by Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Gerald Ford in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson's 1966 State of the Union. Since 2011, there have been responses in English and one in Spanish given by a separate speaker.

The address has usually been given by a member of Congress or a sitting governor, making Abrams an intriguing choice given she doesn't currently hold a political office. Only one other time has an elected official not holding statewide or federal office given their party's response: Elizabeth Guzman, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, delivered the Spanish-language response for Democrats in 2018. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is giving the Spanish address this year.

However, since losing her gubernatorial bid, Abrams has said she is open to running for political office again. In recent days, she was spotted in Washington lunching with California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, and met with other party leaders about a potential 2020 U.S. Senate bid against GOP Sen. David Perdue, of Georgia, one of Mr. Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill.

First published on February 5, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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