Federal issues have dominated our work since the end of the WV legislative session and no issue has taken up more bandwidth than the effort to pass the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and DC Statehood. Our senior senator Manchin has continued to make almost daily headlines both here and in national media as he is a key vote on not only saving our democratic process from authoritarian attacks but for the whole of the new administration’s agenda.
Since our last newsletter, we’ve been hard at it collaborating with allies, both state and national, to make the case (to both the voters and to our Senators) for passing this trifecta of democracy reforms. Informed voters love the components of these measures (see graphic). Misinformed voters talk about a federal ‘takeover’ of elections, when the reality is that the For the People Act take back our elections from being bankrolled by Wall Street, create independent redistricting commissions so that voters can go back to picking their representatives, not the other way around and make our democracy work for regular people.
The State of DC?
Why does the area around our nation’s capital want statehood? Several quick reasons: It has a larger population than the states of Montana and Vermont; residents of DC who of course are US citizens have no voting representation in the House of Representatives and no representation in the Senate; and because the Constitution grants Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the District, Congress can overturn local DC laws. There is a racial justice component too, as DC is a historically Black city and people of color make up the majority of the population. For a deeper dive into the history of and reasons for making DC the 51st state watch this teach-in that was aired on the West Virginians for Democracy facebook page.
Fillet of Buster needs Reformed Too
The House of Representatives has already passed the For the People Act. But it seems that the Senate is the place that good legislation goes to languish. This is mainly caused by the arcane rules of that institution including the dreaded filibuster, which has gotten to be the most revered and maligned part of Senate rules. Revered by those who wish to continue to force the Senate to come up with a supermajority of 60% to pass anything – giving any one Senator power to call for 60 votes to pass anything. It is maligned by those who see it as a roadblock to the progress represented by the democracy agenda, infrastructure, climate and care economy proposals offered by president Biden. We feel that, at minimum, the Senate filibuster rule needs to be amended to exempt voting rights legislation including making DC a state so its residents can enjoy the full rights of citizenship and have a voice in our democracy.
Reconciliation is another buzzword that gets thrown around alot. It’s another part of the Senate rules that allows all issues dealing with the budget to bypass the hurdle of the filibuster and pass with a simple majority. It’s often called the ‘Byrd rule’ after our esteemed Senator as he championed the limitations of what can pass through this budget reconciliation process.
However, these days a simple majority is not so simple. With the Senate evenly split 50-50 between the two parties, Democrats need every one of their Senator’s to vote yea (and VP Harris to break the tie) to win a majority vote. The reconciliation rule was used this Spring to pass the American Rescue Plan without a single Republican vote. Our Senator Manchin was on board and deserves credit for this vote that brought so much help to WV and the nation. There are much more ambitious proposals – the American Jobs and Families Plans that are being designed to comply with the ‘Byrd Rule’ in order to avoid a filibuster. We again need Senator Manchin to stand on the side of progress these policies promise and the dire need of so many in WV and the nation for the jobs, climate cleanup, and prosperity these will bring. Contact Senator Manchin here to send him this message!
Kid’s Checks Help Keep Families Afloat
On July 8th, CAG organized a press conference at Coonskin Park with allies to lift up the upcoming Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments that were starting to hit eligible families’ bank accounts. These are ‘refundable’ credits meaning that, if a family doesn’t have a tax liability, they get a cash refund regardless. This is a major step in fighting child poverty in WV as it will provide additional resources for low-income families and over 300,000 kids to pay for necessities like food, rent, medicine, and childcare (so parents can get to work).
We agree with the president that this part of the American Rescue Plan enacted this past Spring should be extended to 2025 and not expire at the end of the year. Even better, let’s make it permanent to provide a ‘floor’ for families to cover the basics for their kids. Investing in the nation’s children with this expanded and refundable CTC will pay off with more secure families, less childhood trauma, and help more kids make it to become productive citizens!