WASHINGTON — Faith leaders pressed Congress to pass voting rights legislation, a $15 minimum wage and a permanent expansion of the child tax credit during a Thursday briefing on Capitol Hill.
“Poverty is a policy choice,” Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said to lawmakers.
Barber, who is the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, told several Democratic representatives in attendance that there are nearly 140 million poor and “low-wealth” people in the United States. U.S. Census data reports that about 37.2 million people were living in poverty in 2020.
Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy found that 3.7 million children slipped back into poverty after funds for the child tax credit ended earlier this year.
The expanded child tax credit enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan through 2021 provided $250 to $300 per child every month to families. It failed to get extended in the Senate.
Those Democratic lawmakers who attended the briefing included Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna of California, Bobby Scott of Virginia, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Kathy Manning of North Carolina and Troy Carter of Louisiana.
More than 50 faith leaders also joined Barber in pressing for those three actions from Congress.
Barber expressed his frustration that the House was voting Thursday on four police funding bills and not on legislation that would help lift low-income people out of poverty. Democrats have tried to pass the bills to help vulnerable Democrats as well as push back against Republican rhetoric that the Democratic Party wants to “defund the police.”
The bills under consideration in the House would give grants to local agencies to hire personnel to investigate unsolved homicides, address mental health interventions, increase funding for local and small police departments, and fund violence intervention programs.
The House is set to be in recess after Thursday and will be back next week for a few days before members head for the campaign trail.
Barber also stressed that while he understands it’s important for Congress to continue with its investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol last year, that is not an issue that voters, particularly low-income voters, care about. Read more