LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Fifty years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson launched the "War on Poverty" in his first State of the Union address, two prominent Kentucky Democrats took up the mantle on the speech's anniversary, Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky's lone Democrat in Congress, and Democratic U.S. Senate Alison Lundergan Grimes both cited progress in the last half-century yet much more to be accomplished.
"Five decades later, eradicating poverty remains a moral imperative," Yarmuth said in remarks on the House floor. "It encompasses health and wellbeing, education, employment, and access to opportunity."
"We have neither won nor lost that war, of course," Grimes said in a statement released by her campaign. "Important battles have been won. Much of the worst poverty in America has been alleviated"
Saying poverty denies many Kentuckians the opportunities they deserve to share fully in the American dream, Grimes reiterated that jobs are a top priority of her campaign to unseat five term Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell (R), the Senate Minority Leader.
"It is why I will be a relentless advocate for fair pay and for the education and training that can prepare Kentuckians to advance economically," Grimes said. "Yes, that continues President Johnson's timeless dream. It is also the right thing to do."
In his speech, Yarmuth linked LBJ's address to the current congressional battle whether and how extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.
"The current program expired December 28, leaving 18,000 Kentuckians and more than 1.3 million Americans without a critical safety net as they search for work," Yarmuth said. If Congress fails to reauthorize the program, more than 53,000 out-of-work Kentuckians will be without unemployment insurance by the end of the year.
"I urge my colleagues today to recommit themselves to eradicating poverty and support an immediate extension of unemployment insurance," Yarmuth concluded.