New Poor People’s Campaign to McConnell: Pass the Heroes Act
Rev. William Barber II, Facebook

WASHINGTON – Taking their protests right to the key source of the problem, the New Poor People’s Campaign flooded Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office with calls on August 3, demanding he let lawmakers pass the Heroes Act, to aid the poor and workers nationwide, before people get evicted, starve or die.

The “Digital March To Stop McConnell’s Misery, Meanness And Mayhem,” was designed to show the Republican obstructionist that he can’t hide behind the bombast, blame and hate spewing from GOP President Donald Trump and that but that he will be held accountable for untold suffering.

“We have to pull him to the top and let people see what’s going on,” said the Rev. William Barber II, the campaign’s co-chair. “Right now, they only see Trump-Trump-Trump-Trump-Trump.”

The NPPC had to go digital due to the coronavirus pandemic, otherwise participants “would have been out there” in the streets next to the Senate office buildings, said Barber And they intend to keep the pressure on, Barber told the tens of thousands of people joining the August 3 zoom teleconference call.

“We might have a Moral Monday next week, too,” and beyond, until senators approve the $3 trillion House-passed measure, Barber warned. NPPC posted two ways to keep the pressure on McConnell: www.poorpeoplescampaign/livestream and his office line, 202-224-2541.

“Moral Mondays” in Barber’s native North Carolina, drawing tens of thousands into the streets of the state capital, Raleigh, protested the Tar Heel State’s draconian GOP-passed “voter ID” laws which disenfranchised Blacks, browns, indigenous people, women, and other workers. Other GOP-run states raced to do the same thing.

“This man often gets a pass, but he shouldn’t,” Barber said. McConnell even calls himself “The Grim Reaper” against all House-passed legislation, the pastor noted. That includes not just the Heroes Act, but the Protect The Right To Organize (Pro) Act, the most-comprehensive pro-worker rewrite of U.S. labor law in decades.

It also includes job safety legislation, the Green New Deal, and infrastructure bills. He calls them all “socialism.”

But McConnell refuses to even call the Heroes Act up for debate, much less discuss its provisions, which include continuing the $600 weekly federal checks for millions of jobless workers. Those checks lapsed July 31. The Heroes Act would extend them through January 31.

The Heroes Act also includes almost $1 trillion to aid state and local governments, who have seen their revenues tank due to the coronavirus-closure-caused depression. And it has $25 billion for the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service, hundreds of millions of dollars to help schools reopen, more money for coronavirus testing, and a mandate that Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration force firms to create and implement anti-virus worker protection plans.

Barber’s co-chair, the Rev. Liz Theoharis, slammed McConnell’s—and Trump’s—schemes to bar people from voting. The Heroes Act includes hundreds of millions of dollars to help, and mandate, states to convert to voting by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic’s danger to in-person voting. Trump and McConnell oppose voting by mail.

“It is downright heresy to swear an oath on the Bible to support the U.S. Constitution, and then trample on people’s rights,” Theoharis said. “Our scriptures are clear: Bailing out the rich”—through the Trump-GOP $1.7 trillion tax cut in 2017—“and depriving the poor is evil.”

“We need a bill that protects housing, health care, and the poor, and not what we’ve seen from McConnell and his junkies, protecting corporations,” she added.

That refers to the key section of McConnell’s $1 trillion counter to the Heroes Act: banning workers and consumers from suing firms if they catch the coronavirus due to companies’ refusal to install protective measures. About the only item McConnell and the House agree on is to prevent evictions, which Theoharis said could total 28 million. He’d give zip to the states and the Postal Service.

Several other speakers on the zoom call were from Kentucky, where McConnell seeks a seventh six-year term this fall. The NPPC does not endorse candidates, but it does highlight issues, and candidates’ stands, important to the nation’s 140-million-plus poor and near poor. Barber and Theoharis said that number predates the depression. She said it’s higher now.

Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign member Arnold Farr took aim at McConnell’s opposition to the weekly $600 checks to jobless workers. McConnell wants to cut the sum to $200 and other Republicans want to distribute nothing at all.

The Kentuckian claims the $600 is so high that jobless people don’t seek work but “stay home and party,” a claim economists report is a lie.

“We’re too broke to party!” Farr declared. “And he has no idea what’s been happening in Kentucky because he’s not here.”

“His policies and his lack of action” shows McConnell’s “refusal to pay us any attention whatsoever.”

“He’s killing Kentuckians.”

Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Barber replied: “Woe unto those who legislate evil.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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