Sen. Joe Manchin has compromised a new voting rights bill that has some strong protections by slipping the big lie of election fraud into the proposal, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II said during a news conference where the Poor People’s Campaign also criticized the West Virginia senator for blocking economic uplift for poor and low-wealth people and supporting the filibuster.

Sen. Manchin fails his constituents when he doesn’t support the $3.5 trillion economic improvement bill and a federal minimum wage of $15/hour, said Rev. Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Sen. Manchin “claims to be a person of faith. But what he’s doing is sinful, immoral,” Rev. Barber said.

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, also spoke, along with Pam Garrison, Jean Evansmore and Rev. Lipscomb, the tri-chairs of the West Virginia PPC. Molly Linehan Belcher, school teacher and member of Catholic Committee of Appalachia, also spoke.

While the Freedom to Vote Act is “good and powerful in many ways,” it also contains “one of the worst things we have ever seen,” Rev. Barber said. “And that is for the first time in the history of this entire nation, voter ID is given tacit approval while we’re actually winning cases against voter ID.

“More importantly, there is language in this bill that seems to deem voter ID as essential to election integrity, election confidence and election access. That language is codifying the Trump lie, it is codifying the insurrectionist lie. It may seem minor to many but if you look at it carefully, that language needs to be amended out.”

Manchin’s support of the Freedom to Vote Act is meaningless unless he ends his support for the filibuster, which requires 60 votes in the Senate to pass, Rev. Barber said.

Rev. Theoharis said Manchin has, in recent weeks and months, suggested attaching work requirements to the child tax credit; opposed raising the minimum wage to $15/hour; defended the filibuster, and opposed the For the People Act and the $3.5 trillion economic improvement plan.

“The impact of his policy stances on the budget, voting rights, living wages, and the filibuster fly in the face of Catholic social teachings,” Rev. Theoharis said. “They are extreme, contributing to a great chasm between the rich and the rest, Wall Street and the hollers, highways and byways of the nation.”

The news conference was held the day after the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival took out full-pages in four West Virginia newspapers asking Sen. Manchin: Which side are you on?

Sen. Manchin isn’t fooling his constituents by supporting the Freedom to Vote Act, Pam Garrison said.

“West Virginians, we aren’t stupid,” she said. “We know what’s going on. We know what happens with the filibuster. It is a made-up tool that does nothing but take away the will of the people.”

And while West Virginians are tired, “we are not that tired,” she said. “We are the people and we are coming together. And you will listen to us or we will put in people who will.”

Jean Evansmore challenged Manchin for his refusal to support a federal minimum wage of $15/hour when 700,000 West Virginia residents, or 40% of the population, are poor or low-income and 350,000 make less than a living wage.

“We deserve a minimum wage of $15 an hour and what’s interesting is obviously lots of companies have realized that because they’ve already done it. What the hell is the problem?,” she asked. “They realize they have to pay people if they want people to work. West Virginians deserve it.”

What’s best for West Virginia is also best for the rest of the country, Rev. Lipscomb said.

“Give us that living wage – we demand it,” he said. “We are getting to the point where we are tired of asking. We demand it.”

The dismantling of the Voting Rights Act eight years ago was immoral, Molly Linehan Belcher said.

“Diminishing voter’s rights undermines the dignity of individuals and starves us of the voice of God in minority Black and Brown communities,” she said.

Meanwhile, Rev. Barber said the Poor People’s Campaign will hold a massive Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington on June 18, 2022, to put a face on the pain of 140 million poor and low-wealth people.

“Something is wrong with us as a nation that we feel like we can just write off 140 million people,” he said.