Greetings from DC! Locally, the District is gearing up for two annual traditions: cherry blossom season, and Congressional hearings full of new and surprising reasons why the District shouldn’t be a state.
While it’s true DC doesn’t have any landfills (apparently an important part of the statehood process to some), it does have over 700,000 Americans with no voting rights in Congress. More than half of those 700,000 Americans are Black or Latinx, and the vast majority don’t work in the federal government. So if your friends or family (or elected officials) start questioning the case for DC statehood, share some knowledge! With a new Congress and President, this could just be the year that the seat of our democracy becomes fully democratic.
In other congressional news…
The American Rescue Plan Act, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief act, passed Congress and was signed into law. This much-needed funding will support everything from food assistance to jobless benefits to rental assistance and more. Specifically, Interfaith Power & Light was happy to see the inclusion of these priorities that we had been sharing with congressional offices:
- $4.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and $500 million for clean water and sewer programs.
- $30 billion for public transit systems across the country.
- $100 million for pollution monitoring and mitigation in environmental justice communities. As the pandemic rages on, we’ve gotten more and more data showing that Covid-19 is deadliest in the communities with the most pollution. The fact that Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) have been forced to bear an unfair burden of pollution for decades contributes to the virus’s devastating impact in BIPOC communities.
With the filibuster still firmly in place, the best chance we have for climate action is through another budget reconciliation bill. Budget reconciliation, unlike normal bills, can be passed by the Senate with a simple majority vote.
This bill, yet to be introduced, will focus on rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, and we want to make sure that it includes our priorities. We must ensure that investments in infrastructure are safeguarding Creation, addressing the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable neighbors, and fulfilling our moral obligation to leave a habitable world for future generations. Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, as well as low-income communities, have been hit the hardest by the triple health, economic, and environmental crises we face, and the needs of these communities must be at the center of any infrastructure plan.
Click here to see a detailed one-pager on our priorities for an infrastructure bill. Congress is working to introduce legislation by Memorial Day, so now is the perfect time to be meeting with your legislators and sharing these priorities.
Next up on the congressional agenda is the For the People Act. This important legislation would protect and expand voting rights, take steps to remove fossil fuel dark money from political campaigns, and limit partisan gerrymandering. It has already passed the House, and now you can join us in sending the message that the Senate should pass it with a simple majority vote.
Valuing all voices, not just the most powerful, is a basic tenet of both our faith traditions and any functioning democracy. Furthermore, racist voter suppression laws have been introduced across the country, with some specifically targeting Black churches ability to turn out their congregants.
The Senate is considering changing filibuster rules to allow the passage of civil rights legislation with a simple majority vote, and you can join us in sending a message of support for this legislation by clicking here.
RECLAIM Act (H.R. 1733)
This is legislation IPL has worked on for several years, recently reintroduced for the new session. It would authorized $1 billion for clean up work and economic development in communities with abandoned mines. You can see here how much funding your state would be in line for under this bill. It’s a good candidate for being included in an infrastructure bill, with more on that above.
Environmental Justice for All Act (H.R. to come)
This is also legislation IPL has worked on in the past, recently reintroduced by Rep. Donald McEachin (VA). In addition to providing more funding for pollution monitoring and mitigation in environmental justice communities (as was included in the Covid relief package), this bill would ensure that the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act consider the cumulative impact of multiple polluters on a community.
This would go a long way towards stopping the creation of environmental sacrifice zones—areas where regulators have allowed multiple large polluters to gather in the same community. Although each polluter is individually under legal pollution limits, their collective impact is often far above safe levels. The bill has many more important provisions, and you can learn more about the legislation here.