Exhale. Relief is on the way.
President Biden’s COVID relief bill cleared the Senate with the
narrowest of margins. It was a grueling process. As a delaying
tactic, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson (R) demanded that the entire
600 plus page bill be read aloud. It took more than 10 hours for
Senate clerks to read. The ridiculous demand imposed no hardship on
any Senator. Most, including Johnson himself, drifted in and out of
the reading, which lasted until 2 am on the morning Friday, March 5.
The Senators were not inconvenienced – they were under no
obligation to be seated as the legislation was read. The
inconvenience, instead, was on the clerks who read for several hours,
and to what end?
matter. The delay did not prevent the legislation from passing,
although it passed on strictly party lines. Do any Republicans
represent the poor people who hunger for relief? And what about
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA), who dug in his heels to limit relief
checks to the “wealthy,” reduce unemployment benefits
from a proposed $400 per week down to $300? West Virginia is one of
our nation’s poorest states. Their “moderate”
Senator turned his back on his constituents, watering down the House
plan to provide more.
essential components of the legislation remained. The amended bill
has now passed the House of Representatives, retaining help to cities
and states, supporting covid vaccinations, and including a child
credit that will put money in people’s pockets. The legislation
is, in some ways, disappointing. In many other ways, it is a step in
the right direction.
moments like this, I think of folks like Elder Betty Shabazz, who
always says, “find the good and praise it.” So we must
praise the legislation that has passed and what it will mean to those
struggling in the face of this pandemic. We must praise the money
that poor people with children will get. And we must praise the
relief that will come to small businesses, which have a two-week
window to get ahead of the capitalist exploiters who have manipulated
must also embrace our disappointment as motivation to move forward.
Thanks, Senator Bernie Sanders, for continuing your passionate fight
for $15. Why have so many settled at $11 or raised the issue of
differential minimum wages based on the cost of living? No matter
where you go, a McDonald’s or Burger King sandwich costs about
the same unless there are sales. So does food. Housing costs may
differ, and that’s worth consideration. Here’s the other
question – how much poverty are we prepared to accept? Are we
prepared to accept its consequences?
are also disappointed that President Biden has backed off student
loan forgiveness, suggesting that it might be limited to $10,000 per
borrower. The backbone of Biden support, Black women, carry the most
enormous student loan debt. Biden and his team need to target student
loan relief and ensure that those who shouldered the most debt get
the most help. While there are certainly flaws to the Biden/Warren
plan for total student loan debt forgiveness, the Biden proposal does
not deal with the racial wealth gap and how Black students often pay
more to get less in higher education.
am not complaining. It would be unseemly in the face of this victory.
I am merely saying there is so much work to do. If we are tempted to
take a victory lap around the passage of covid relief, we must also
be ready for the next steps. The House of Representatives passed HR1,
which is an election protection measure that guarantees voting
rights. Already, there are more than 200 pieces of proposed voter
suppression legislation that come from more than 40 states. In
Georgia, the state legislature has crafted a bill that directly
attacks the efforts of voter organizers. It limits Sunday voting,
negating the efforts of “All Souls to the Polls”. It
forbids the distribution of food and water to those who have been
standing in line for hours. Georgia legislators know the power of the
Black vote. They want to diminish it.
the mid-1990s, the Black church has called for “all souls to
the polls”. Some folks don’t want our souls there. They
want to continue their autocratic nonsense, and unless we vote,
despite obstacles, they’ll have their way. Passing COVID relief
is a step in the right direction. But it must be the first step, not