Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and a rising Democratic star, blamed President Trump for the partial government shutdown in her response to the State of the Union address -- calling the shutdown a "stunt" and its impact on federal workers a "disgrace."
Abrams, who made history Tuesday night as the first African-American woman to deliver a formal State of the Union response, reflected on her experience volunteering with furloughed workers during the 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government.
"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," she said. "Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace."
She added: "The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people--but our values."
Abrams delivered her speech in the metro Atlanta area, surrounded by Georgia activists, labor leaders, health care professionals, educators, entrepreneurs, voters and her family, after Trump delivers his message.
Abrams' criticism of the president comes after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which ended just last month when the president agreed to sign a three-week stopgap spending package to fund the government through Feb. 15. The shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, was over a border security stalemate. Trump requested $5.7 billion in funding for border security and construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and Democrats vowed to block any type of package that included funding for the wall.
In that 35-day shutdown, more than 800,000 federal workers and contractors were left working without pay, or furloughed without pay.
Abrams lost November’s gubernatorial election to Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp but has remained a power player in the Democratic Party.
“My reason for running for governor was simple: I love our country and its promise of opportunity for all, and I stand here tonight because I hold fast to my father’s credo—together, we are coming for America, for a better America,” she said.
Abrams reflected on her experience leading Democrats in the Georgia House of Representatives as minority leader, noting that she “didn’t always agree” with Republicans but “understood that our constituents didn’t care about our political parties—they cared about their lives.”
“It should be no different in our nation’s capital,” she said. “We may come from different sides of the political aisle; but our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable.”
Abrams highlighted the “most urgent work,” which was “to realize Americans’ dreams of today and tomorrow.”
“Children deserve an excellent education from cradle to career. We owe them safe schools and the highest standards, regardless of zip code,” she said, accusing the Trump administration of responding “timidly while first graders practice active shooter drills and the price of higher education grows ever steeper.”
Abrams called for lawmakers to tackle gun safety measures, and the “crippling effect of educational loans.”
She went on to blast the Republican tax bill, which she said “rigged the system against working people.”
“Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living,” she said.
Abrams urged lawmakers to protect expanding health care, rather than “suing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.”
Abrams also defended abortion and Roe v. Wade, saying it is "immoral to allow politicians to harm women and families to advance a political agenda;" the LGBTQ community, saying they are still "under attack" even after affirming marriage equality; and voting rights -- an issue she has been vocal on.
"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," she said.
But despite criticizing Trump, Abrams offered general support to the president.
“Even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems—I still don’t want him to fail,” she said. “But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America.”
She added: “Our progress has always found refuge in the basic instinct of the American experiment – to do right by our people. And with a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America, together. Because America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic. That is who we are – and when we do so, never wavering - the state of our union will always be strong.”
Abrams, an attorney, was the first black leader in the Georgia statehouse, having previously served as House minority leader. She is also an award-winning romance novelist, penning eight books under the nom de plume Selena Montgomery.
Recently, Democrats have even encouraged Abrams to run for Senate in 2020.
But Republicans took a swipe at Abrams ahead of the address Tuesday, nicknaming her “SourGrapesStacey” in reference to her refusal to concede in Georgia’s hard-fought gubernatorial race last year. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which recruits and supports Republicans for the Senate, released a video ahead of her speech titled “What Stacey Abrams stands for in less than 30 seconds.”
It shows her refusing to concede the 2018 race, saying, “This is not a speech of concession.” It also shows clips of Abrams discussing the possibility of Trump being impeached and her saying she “wouldn’t oppose” non-citizens voting.
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly, Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.