05.20.21

Reps. Lee and Jayapal Join with Poor People’s Campaign to Unveil Congressional Resolution Demanding Legislative Agenda to Dismantle Poverty

Washington, D.C. - Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Co-Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Chair of the House Progressive Caucus, today unveiled a Congressional resolution calling for a bold Third reconstruction, which demands that the U.S. fully address poverty and low wages from the bottom up. This legislation was endorsed by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Titled “Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up,” this resolution?is?a historic omnibus vision to summon the moral and political resolve of the nation to center the needs of the 140 million people who are poor, low-wealth and/or living one emergency away from economic ruin - and millions more since the pandemic - with moral laws and policies. 

This resolution aims to:  

  • Protect our democracy through expanding our voting rights, comprehensive and just immigration reform, guaranteeing Native and Indigenous rights; addressing the war economy; and guaranteeing adequate incomes, living wages and the general welfare; 
  • Prioritize the needs and demands of the 140 million people who are poor or one health care crisis, job loss, storm or emergency away from economic desperation, with policies that build up from the bottom, including around housing, healthcare, welfare, water, and equitable high-quality and diverse public education;
  • Update the poverty measure to reflect what it takes to secure a decent standard of living today?as a new baseline for anti-poverty and social welfare programs;
  • Develop a federal jobs program that prioritizes poor and low-wealth communities (both urban and rural) to address racial and wealth inequality and build up public infrastructure through socially beneficial and climate resilient jobs and development; 
  • Raise resources to invest in these priorities by redirecting military spending and carceral spending, implementing fair taxation and being willing to use deficit spending.

 “We are facing a poverty crisis on top of a public health crisis that is disproportionately impacting communities of color and low-income communities,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “It’s past time that we address the historical injustices of structural racism and economic inequality and center the needs of the millions who have fallen into poverty just since the start of this pandemic. As Co-Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, I am proud to unveil this transformative legislation with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and work alongside the Revs. Barber and Theoharis to dismantle the systems that have perpetuated poverty and low wages in this country for generations.”   

"Poverty exists because we allow it to exist. In the wealthiest country in the world, 140 million people are poor because we have chosen to allow it to be so," said Congresswoman Jayapal. "We have the power to end poverty. We must implement bold proposals that center the poor — providing housing, health care, climate justice, and equitable public education. In everything we do, we must take the extraordinary wealth that is here in America and design policies that build from the bottom up, putting at the center of all of our solutions the real people whose lives are most at stake. That is why I am so proud to co-introduce this bold and necessary resolution that commits Congress to eradicating poverty. Today, we say to poor people across America: we see you and we will eradicate poverty in our country with you." 

“This resolution for A Third Reconstruction emerges from the pain and organizing power of the 140 million people living in poverty or with low wages in this nation,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. “It calls for the resolve necessary to implement real and transformational legislative action.”

“This resolution realizes that we must simultaneously deal with the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of health care, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism that blames the poor instead of the systems that cause poverty,” said Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis.

This legislation draws on the history of the First Reconstruction following the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction of the civil rights struggles of the 20th century and addresses the converging injustices of systemic racism, poverty, public health inequity, militarism, white supremacist nationalist extremism, and aims to lift our society and economy from the bottom up. 

To read the full text of the resolution, click here.