“In a democracy, poor and low-wealth people must have two things: the right to vote and living wages,” said Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “Joe Manchin and Mitch McConnell are threatening our democracy by resisting these two things. If our elected leaders are blocking the For the People Act, which will stop the tyranny that is happening in state capitols, they are not on the side of the people.”
The group said it expects to bring more than seven buses of poor and low-income workers to the nation’s capital for the march.
The protest comes as the Senate takes up the For the People Act, Democrats’ wide-ranging democracy reform legislation that would, among other things, expand voting rights, limit partisan gerrymandering and reduce the influence of money in politics.
Democrats are becoming increasingly frustrated with the conservative West Virginia senator’s insistence that the party only do things that have the support of Republicans. McConnell, meanwhile, has insisted that “100%” of the GOP’s “focus is on stopping this new administration.”
Every Democratic senator except Manchin supports the legislation, while every GOP senator opposes it. On June 6, Manchin wrote an opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail saying he was opposed to the For the People Act for the main reason that no Republican senator backed it ― leading to the inevitable question of whether he would allow Republicans to block every single part of Biden’s agenda if they simply remained unified.
He has since released “compromise” legislation, although it’s unclear whether it could get enough Republican votes to pass.
The For the People Act is considered Democrats’ top legislative priority. It passed the House with just one Democratic lawmaker voting against it. Democrats hold the thinnest of margins in the Senate; even if Manchin were to support the bill, it still would need 10 Republicans to join on as well because Manchin ― and some other Democrats ― refuse to back getting rid of the filibuster.
Wednesday’s protest will be the second recent march on Manchin held by the Poor People’s Campaign. Hundreds of demonstrators marched to his office in Charleston, West Virginia, last week.
Black leaders in West Virginia have been warning their senator that his willingness to hand over Democrats’ voting rights agenda to Republicans may cost him their support in his next election. Although just 3.6% of West Virginia residents are Black, they argue that their backing was key to his narrow victory last time.
“African-Americans in West Virginia could be his Achilles’ heel,” West Virginia NAACP President Owens Brown told HuffPost earlier this month.
Manchin recently held a call with Black church leaders in the state, and at one point, a pastor who is close to the senator came to his defense. In a sign of the increasing frustration allies are feeling toward Manchin, the attempt to defend him did not go over well.
“In the past that might have held some sway,” the Rev. David Fryson, a senior pastor at New First Baptist Church of Kanawha City in Charleston, told The Washington Post. “But this time it was just embarrassing.”