The nation is exhausted by COVID and now more deeply divided by President Trump’s shameless challenge to the election results. But in the midst of this, nearly all the members of Congress have joined together in affirming what our country has been doing to reduce child stunting in the world’s poorest countries.
This week the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution that affirms the importance of continued U.S. support for best-practice child nutrition programs around the world. The Senate passed a parallel resolution last year. Bread for the World members across the country made this happen. They had 586 meetings with 356 congressional offices. They made 458 calls to their members of Congress and wrote 83,000 letters.
Click here to watch a wonderful video about their campaign. Nancy Jones, an activist in Appleton, Wisconsin, sums it up, “The story I really want to tell is about persistence and teamwork, because that’s really what it was.”
The Advent season teaches us persistence. God is patiently, persistently coming into our world. In Advent we sing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” We read about the persistent faith of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon and Anna. We hear John the Baptist’s call to get ready for the kingdom and Jesus’ parable about keeping our lamps burning during a long night of waiting.
We have two opportunities now to advance the interests of people in poverty through the political process.
First, Congress is making huge funding decisions this month. They need to approve an appropriations bill to keep the government open, and the House - but not the Senate - wants it to include $10 billion in aid to help low-income countries deal with the pandemic. Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle also realize that another COVID relief bill is needed to avoid a sharp increase in hardship, and a bipartisan group of senators has developed a compromise package. The final package may - or may not - include a 15% increase in SNAP benefits for the lowest income families on the program.
So we can again call the offices of our senators (especially if you have a Republican senator) to urge them to help pass both these bills and to include the $10 billion in international aid and the 15% increase in SNAP benefits.
I called the office of one of my senators, Mark Warner, and asked to talk with the staffer who works on agriculture and nutrition issues. Warner is part of the bipartisan compromise group, so I asked his staff to put me on the list of constituents who appreciate his leadership on this. I also urged that Warner push to get the increase in SNAP benefits in the final bill.
In my judgment, we can also benefit poor people by supporting the two Democrats in the Senate run-off election in Georgia, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. If Warnock and Ossoff are both elected, Biden will be able to advance his Build Back Better investment program. If not, we will be stuck in legislative gridlock for the next two years.
Warnock and his opponent, Kelly Loeffler, had their first debate this week. Loeffler defended Senator McConnell’s “skinny” proposals for the next COVID relief package, while Warnock argued for more help for struggling families. Jon Ossoff and his opponent, David Perdue, also share their parties’ positions on this issue.
I’ve given more money to candidates this year than ever before, but I recently sent contributions to Warnock and Ossoff. I also called my nephew in Atlanta to encourage him to be active in the election. He thought he could get a couple apolitical friends to vote.
Many of us have been active in advocacy about the next COVID relief bill for months, and we are ready to be done with this year’s elections. But you might consider making one more call to a member of Congress and perhaps sending political contributions to Georgia as part of your personal observance of Advent.