Suzanne Bonamici grew up in a small town in Michigan. Her father worked for a local bank and her mother was a small business owner and piano teacher. Many of her strongest childhood memories are of family camping trips with her two brothers.
After graduating from high school, Suzanne moved to Oregon with friends and fell in love with the state. She put herself through college, first at Lane Community College and then at the University of Oregon, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Following college, she went on to law school at the University of Oregon and earned her J.D. degree.
Suzanne has dedicated her entire career to working for accountability, fairness, and the creation of opportunities to give everyone a path to a better future. During college, Suzanne was a legal assistant at Lane County Legal Aid in Eugene. It was there that she discovered her interest in and passion for consumer rights.
After graduating, she worked as a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. She was assigned to the Credit Practices Division, where she worked to protect consumers from predatory or discriminatory lending practices. Suzanne met her husband Michael in Washington, D.C., and in 1986 they moved to Oregon and soon after settled in Washington County. Suzanne entered private law practice, where she specialized in representing individuals and small businesses.
Suzanne then took a career break to raise her children. She became active in the community, volunteering for education, arts, and civic organizations like the Classroom Law Project, Beaverton Education Foundation, and several theaters. Her public school advocacy work is what first took her to the Oregon State Capitol, attending rallies in support of education and leading her to a decision to serve in public office.
Suzanne worked as a legislative assistant in the Oregon House of Representatives in 2001. In 2006, the voters of Washington County’s House District 34 elected her to represent them in Salem. After only one term in the Oregon House, her leadership and hard work were recognized and led to her appointment, and then election, to the Oregon Senate in 2008. She was reelected to the Senate in 2010.
Suzanne was first elected to the U.S. Congress in a special election in 2012. She currently serves on the Education and Labor Committee, where she is the chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, and on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Suzanne is one of only nine Democrats serving on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which developed a Climate Action Plan for Congress to take meaningful, bold action to address the climate crisis. She is a member of the Progressive Caucus and the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the STEAM Caucus, which aims to educate innovators by integrating art and design into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). She is also Co-Chair of the bipartisan Oceans Caucus, and a leader on issues involving the health of our ocean.
Suzanne and Michael have been married for more than thirty-five years. Their children, now grown, attended public schools in the Beaverton School District.
I’ve spent my entire career fighting for working families, public education, small businesses, seniors, and the environment - and I won’t stop now! Here you can learn more about my priorities and my approach to the issues that are before Congress. Please contact me with your ideas and questions.
Building an economy that works for everyone
A top priority of mine in Congress is to grow the economy and implement policies that create more good-paying jobs in Oregon and across the country. I am committed to supporting policies that will restore fairness, help working families, and close the income and opportunity gaps that have increased in recent decades.
Too many people and too many families still struggle. Incomes aren’t keeping up with expenses, and we need an economy that benefits everyone. For a prosperous future that supports workers and families, we must:
Invest in infrastructure: I helped pass comprehensive investments in infrastructure that will put Oregonians and Americans back to work building and maintaining roads, bridges, public transit, ports, water systems, schools, broadband, and electric grids. By retrofitting buildings and increasing energy efficiency, we can create good jobs and save energy and money while helping to address the climate crisis.
Support workers and increase the federal minimum wage: The rights of workers to earn fair and prevailing wages, organize, collectively bargain, stay safe on the job, and avoid discrimination, have come under attack many times in recent years. I am helping to lead the fight to protect the right of workers to organize and support the rights of labor unions. I also helped the House pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for more than a decade, and have championed efforts to address wage discrimination.
Invest in apprenticeships and workforce training: The job market is changing, and we must create a path to a good job for all workers, especially women and people of color who have historically faced barriers to employment. I’m focused on expanding workforce training and Registered Apprenticeships here in Oregon and across the country to prepare for the future of work and respond to local workforce needs. The House passed my bipartisan PARTNERS Act, which will help small and medium sized businesses establish apprenticeship programs and provide workers with the support services they need to succeed.
Supporting working families
As a Congresswoman and a mom, I am committed to enacting policies that support families and strengthen our economy – for everyone.
Paid Family Leave and Sick Days: In today’s workplace, taking time off to bond with a new baby or to care for a sick loved one is a luxury few can afford. We are the only industrialized nation that does not require some level of paid family leave, which means too many parents and caregivers are put in the impossible situation of having to choose between their need to earn a paycheck and a new baby or sick family member. I am working to pass legislation that will provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers to care for a newborn or adopted child or a sick family member, and seven job-protected paid sick or safe days.
Affordable child care: In Oregon, the cost of child care is the fourth highest in the country for an infant and fifth highest for children under the age of four. We have more children in need of care than slots available, driving the prices even higher. The pandemic has further exacerbated this ongoing crisis, with frontline workers needing child care and providers struggling to stay afloat while providing safe care. I am fighting for robust federal funding to make both child care and early childhood education affordable and accessible. This is a good investment that will give Oregonians and Americans the opportunity to create a better life and a better future for their children.
Retirement security: For decades, workers achieved retirement security through a combination of employer-provided pensions, personal savings, and Social Security. Today, however, significantly fewer employers provide retirement plans to their workers. In fact, there are more than 68 million people in our workforce whose employers do not offer any type of retirement savings plan. Social Security is an essential tool that helps retirees make ends meet, but it is not intended to be the sole form of income in retirement. We need new ways to provide workers with retirement security I also introduced legislation to make it easier for people to access savings accounts from past jobs, so that they can retrieve the money they earned.
Equal pay for equal work: Women make up more than half of the workforce in the U.S., but too often they still earn less than their male colleagues doing the same job. It’s time for a stronger Equal Pay law that holds employers accountable for systematically paying female employees, especially women of color, less than men for the same work. I led the Paycheck Fairness Act through the committee process to close the gender wage gap, and I helped the legislation pass the House. Women deserve equal pay for equal work!
Create more affordable housing
Oregon is facing an unprecedented housing crisis. It’s going to take state, federal, and local leaders working together to help solve the housing crisis and get people off the streets and into safe, supportive housing. In Congress, I’m advocating for individuals and families who are housing-insecure, including the millions of Americans facing eviction or foreclosure as a result of the pandemic. I support legislation that will produce more than 3 million new affordable housing units and reduce rents nationwide. A living wage, job training opportunities, and universal health care will also help address homelessness. And Congress must increase funding for behavioral health services and addiction treatment, as well as other social safety net programs that support those on the brink of homelessness.
With partners in the Biden Administration, I am also working to provide first-time homebuyers with mortgage down payment assistance to help address the racist history of housing discrimination. Equity must be central to expanding access to housing because everyone deserves a safe place to live.
Achieve universal health care
Health care is a human right. Too many families are burdened by medical debt or can’t afford the care they need. We need affordable, accessible health care for everyone, and all proposals to achieve that, including Medicare for All, must be on the table. In addition, no one should have to choose between putting groceries on the table and paying for medicine, which is why I’m working to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Access to affordable health care for all has always been a top priority, but it has become more urgent during the global health pandemic. I’m working to increase vaccination rates in our communities, strengthen and improve the ACA while advancing universal health care, and provide support for frontline workers. I also support robust funding for our public health infrastructure, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The United States must be a leader in efforts to curb COVID-19 with the best available science, and we must also work on prevention and improving our response to future global health pandemics.
Strengthening education and making college more affordable
I’m a strong proponent of public education. My husband and I attended public schools, and so did our two children. My kids started school a few years after the passage of Measure 5, and as a parent volunteer I saw the devastating consequences of the resulting budget cuts. This experience strengthened my commitment to great public schools for all children, where students thrive and educators have the resources and support they need.
As a parent volunteer, I advocated for school funding at the Capitol in Salem, and my passion for public education ultimately led me to serve as a State Representative, a State Senator, and now a Member of Congress. In Congress, I have the honor of serving on the Education and Labor Committee, where I chair the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.
I’ve led hearings on and passed legislation to address pay equity, federal child nutrition programs, child abuse prevention and treatment, LGBTQ equality, runaway and homeless youth, employment discrimination, and protections for pregnant workers. One of my most significant accomplishments in Congress was when I served in a lead role in the replacement of No Child Left Behind and helped write the final version of The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). I also created the bipartisan Congressional STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Caucus to advocate for the integration of art and design, broadly defined, into STEM education to prepare all students to be creative, critical thinkers who will have the skills they need to solve the problems of today and tomorrow.
There is more to do to provide all students with access to an excellent, well-rounded education.
I’m focused on:
Expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities so every child, regardless of background, family income level, or ability, can start kindergarten prepared to learn.
Addressing resource inequities in K-12 education so states and school districts can provide safe facilities, counseling services, advanced courses, technology, extended learning opportunities, world language learning, rigorous career and technical education programs, and a well-rounded curriculum that includes the arts.
Making college more affordable by protecting and expanding existing federal student aid programs like Pell Grants and Federal Work Study, and striving for debt-free college. In the short term, we must keep student loan interest rates low, fix the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and help borrowers better manage student loan debt through easier access to income driven repayment plans. I worked my way through community college, college, and law school, and understand the importance of access and affordability. I’m working on an overdue update of the Higher Education Act that will make meaningful changes for students, families, and borrowers.
Defending reproductive rights
Reproductive freedom and the right to abortion care are under attack. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade has been devastating and dangerous. Politicians and judges should not be dictating the intensely personal decision about whether and when someone bears a child, and history shows that laws restricting abortion do not work; they only restrict safe abortion. Oregonians can always count on me to stand up for reproductive rights, including abortion care, access to family planning and contraception, and affordable health care services for all. Access to contraceptives and reproductive health care are proven to reduce health costs for individuals and the health care system as a whole, as well as reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
I helped the House pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which will put the provisions of Roe v. Wade into law. I also helped the House pass legislation to protect the right to contraception and the right to travel to another state to access abortion care. And I am honored to have the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL, and to have earned Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon’s Marilyn Epstein Pro-Choice Champion Award.
Confronting the climate crisis and creating a clean energy economy
In Northwest Oregon, the acidic ocean, droughts, extreme weather events, raging wildfires, and hazardous smoke increasingly threaten our environment, economy, and public health. Congress must take meaningful action to confront the climate crisis and, because it is exacerbating social, racial, and economic inequalities, we need a just transition with the creation of good-paying jobs in a clean energy economy.
Speaker Pelosi appointed me to the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which was tasked with producing a bold, comprehensive, science-driven Climate Action Plan to achieve net-zero emissions no later than mid-century and net-negative thereafter. Our Climate Action Plan includes more than 500 pages of detailed, science-based policy recommendations that cover each sector of the economy and serves as a roadmap for Congress. I have long been an environmental leader in Congress, serving as the top Democrat on the Science, Space, and Technology Environment Subcommittee, and as co-chair of both the bipartisan Oceans Caucus and the bipartisan Estuary Caucus. The House unanimously passed my COAST Research Act to strengthen research and monitoring of ocean and coastal acidification and help communities adapt. I’ve also championed legislation to help capture the power of the ocean as a way toreduce carbon pollution, I’ve secured increased funding and resources for NOAA to address harmful algal blooms and hypoxia that plague the Oregon coast, and I’ve helped pass two versions of the Save Our Seas Act, legislation to clean up marine debris. The House also passed my bipartisan marine energy bill to support our transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy. Investing in a clean energy economy will continue to create good-paying jobs, build more resilient communities, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
The climate crisis is an existential threat and a national emergency, and I will continue to work in Congress for meaningful steps to reduce emissions and defend our planet for generations to come.
Standing up for older Americans
I helped care for my mother and stepfather in their later years, so I have seen firsthand the challenges faced by older Americans. All people deserve to live with dignity and respect as they age, which is why a secure retirement and earned benefits like Social Security are so important.
In 2016, I led the successful bipartisan effort to update the Older Americans Act. I continued my work to help seniors by leading passage of the new bipartisan Supporting Older Americans Act, which became law in April of 2020. This legislation funds Meals on Wheels and community centers, protects vulnerable seniors - including our aging LGBT population - addresses social isolation, and more. I have also strongly opposed every effort to privatize Social Security and end Medicare as we know it, efforts that would impose thousands of dollars in extra costs on older Americans. I am a vocal advocate for giving Social Security recipients a cost-of-living adjustment so their payments keep up with the rising costs of housing, medication, and other basic needs.
Fighting for small businesses
My first job was in my Mom’s small business. A critical part of our economy, small businesses create jobs and foster innovation. The pandemic has caused many business owners to shutter their doors, and others are close to the breaking point.
I have spoken with many small business owners who are struggling right now. The relief packages passed by Congress have been crucial lifelines for businesses, but there is more that we must do to stabilize the economy and support small businesses and their employees. I have worked on bipartisan solutions to improve the Paycheck Protection Program, forgive emergency loans, and remove unnecessary restrictions that were preventing community banks and credit unions from serving their customers. I have also been advocating for more comprehensive relief programs and for expansion of eligibility to all types of businesses and nonprofits.
We must use every tool we have to assist business owners as they recover, and then help them continue to grow. Throughout my career, I have been a champion of improving access to capital for small businesses and enhancing opportunities for entrepreneurs who are too often left behind - women and veteran business owners, rural businesses, and entrepreneurs of color. I have led legislation to expand access to federal contracting opportunities for traditionally underserved business owners. We must also bridge the funding gap for businesses owned by members of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
Whenever I have visited or spoken with the workers and owners of family farms, artisan shops, manufacturers, theaters, wineries, craft breweries, and other diverse types of small businesses in NW Oregon, I am inspired by their creativity and resilience. I will always stand up for our small businesses.
Preventing gun violence in our communities
We need and deserve to be safe from gun violence. Tragically, gun violence has taken countless lives of friends and family members. When in school, students should be able to focus on learning, not on finding a safe place to hide in their classrooms. Families should feel safe at shopping centers, in their places of worship, and in their neighborhoods.
I support responsible gun ownership, but I also support common sense gun violence prevention measures that protect our communities. Oregon has been a national leader in enacting meaningful gun violence prevention laws, and those measures have saved lives. It is past time for the federal government to enact similar laws to protect people across the country. I joined the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the US Capitol when they rallied for Congressional action, and as a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I helped the House pass historic legislation to require universal background checks and close the loopholes that make it easier for dangerous people to access firearms. I support getting assault weapons off our streets and closing the “boyfriend loophole” that leaves many domestic violence survivors in danger. More than 100 people in the United States are killed by guns every day, and more than 60 of those people die by suicide. I will continue to advocate for more mental health support and resources for people who are struggling with mental health, including our veterans. There is no question that there are policies that will save lives, and I will also continue fighting for resources and support for communities suffering trauma from gun violence. We can never replace the lives lost to gun violence, but we must support the schools, families, and communities affected.
Free and fair elections are the foundation of a functioning democracy. Any effort to suppress the rights of eligible voters is a threat to our democratic republic. Here in Oregon, we have a safe and secure voting system that makes it easier – not harder – for citizens to cast their votes. We’ve been voting by mail for decades and have some of the highest voter turnout in the nation. And our automatic voter registration reduces barriers that disproportionately target voters of color.
For too many years, Black Americans and other people of color faced barriers that denied them the opportunity to vote. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act passed in the 1960’s that all citizens had access to the ballot box. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, and voter suppression efforts are multiplying in states around the country. We must stand up against misleading rhetoric about election safety. Voter suppression efforts and voter identification laws disproportionately target communities of color, disabled citizens, and low-income voters.
I will continue working to pass legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that will restore voting protections and H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which would expand participation and bring parts of Oregon’s popular electoral system to everyone.