ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The voting behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus shows . . .

CBC has been at least half absorbed by corporate power, that it

fails to reflect the near-universal African American

aversion to U.S. military adventures abroad



Congressional Black Caucus Grades Plummet

on War, “Terror” and Trade Bills

By Leutisha Stills


Black members of the U.S. House of Representatives have scored their worst grades since the Congressional Black Caucus Monitor watchdog group began issuing twice-yearly Report Cards in September, 2005. Of the 39 members graded for the period September-December, 2007, only five scored 80 percent for a “B” grade:

Keith Ellison (MN)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)

Barbara Lee (CA)

Donald Payne (NJ)

Maxine Waters (CA)

Not one CBC member scored higher than 80 percent. Twenty-nine members scored 60-70 percent, most of them falling from previous grading period “Honor Roll” (90-100 percent, “A”) and “Consensus” (80-89 percent, “B”) status. Three members earned “Derelict” grades, at 50 percent:

Yvette Clarke (NY)

Artur Davis (AL)

Edolphus Towns (NY)

Only two members, Keith Ellison (MN), a freshman member, and Barbara Lee (CA) retained “Honor Roll” standing based on their averaged scores for all grading periods. Three members, Sanford Bishop (GA), freshman Yvette Clarke (NY), and Artur Davis (AL), rated as “Derelicts” for their combined grading periods.

Two members are “delegates” from the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands, who cannot vote on the House floor, and one seat was for a time vacant due to the death of Indiana Rep. Julia Carson.

The Big Plunge

Caucus grades were in sharp contrast to the January- September 2007 period, when eight members scored 90-100 percent and only one earned less than 70 percent. This was an “easy” grading period, in which members were called upon to vote on few bills that might bring them into conflict with the Historical Black Consensus on peace and social justice. In the latest period, three of the ten selected pieces of legislation caused most or all members to lose points, at ten percent per vote. The three “tripwire” bills were:

HJ Resolution 52 – Continuing Appropriations Bill for FY 2008

HR 3688 – U. S./Peru Free Trade Agreement

HR 1955 – Homegrown Terrorism Study Act



Only six members voted against the Continuing Appropriations Bill (HJ Resolution 52), which continued funding for the Iraq war. The “peace” voters were:

William Clay (MO)

Keith Ellison (MN)

Barbara Lee (CA)

Donald Payne (NJ)

Maxine Waters (CA)

Diane Watson (CA)

All the “peace” voters are members of the Out of Iraq Caucus. Only 13 Democrats and one Republican (Ron Paul, of Texas) voted against the appropriations.

Free” Trade

Half of the CBC voted against the corporate-backed U. S./Peru Free Trade Agreement (HR 3688), thus lining up on the correct side of the issue:

John Conyers (MI)

Elijah Cummings (MD)

Danny Davis (IL)

Jesse Jackson (IL)

Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX)

William Jefferson (LA)

Hank Johnson (GA)

Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI)

Barbara Lee (CA)

Donald Payne (NJ)

Bobby Rush (IL)

David Scott (GA)

Bobby Scott (VA)

Keith Ellison (MN)

Al Green (TX)

Alcee Hastings

Bennie Thompson (MS)

Maxine Waters (CA)

Diane Watson (CA)

Al Wynn (MD)

Homegrown “Violent Radicalization”

Every member of the Caucus lost ten points on the Homegrown Terrorism Study Act (HR 1955), a broadly-worded measure to combat “violent radicalization,” described as “an extremist belief system for facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” Ominously, the bill states: “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.”

The Act is couched in language designed to calm those concerned about civil liberties: “Any measure taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism in the United States should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.” However, any bill that authorizes Congress to commission “studies” and hearings on people’s “belief systems” and the definition of “propaganda” smacks of McCarthyism and the old House Un-American Activities Committee, civil liberties assurances notwithstanding.

CBC members Danny Davis (IL), John Conyers (MI), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX) did not vote on the measure, but lost points anyway. In the entire Congress, only Dennis Kucinich voted “nay.”

The other seven bills on which CBC members were graded were:

HR 4156 – Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act

HR 3685 – Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

HR 2895 – National Affordable Housing Act

HR 2740 – Accountability for Contractors Act

HR 3648 – Mortgage Forgiveness Act

HR 3121 – Flood Insurance Reform Act

HR 975 – Renewal of S-Children’s Health Insurance Act

Members also lost points for unexplained failure to vote on any of the measures.

Non-Black Members and Caucuses

The CBC Monitor has expanded its Report Card to track the votes of Members representing districts with 25 percent or more Black constituencies, and the Hispanic and Asian/Pacific-American Caucuses. These additional groups are graded on the same pieces of legislation as the Congressional Black Caucus.

The 29 non-Black members of Congress with a quarter or more Black constituents are almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Seventy-one percents of the districts are in the South, with African Americans comprising one-third or more of the population in six districts.

Only eight of the non-Black members, all Democrats, scored higher than “Derelict”:

Dutch Ruppersberger (MD) 60% score. District: 27.3% Black

Brad Miller (NC) 60% score. District: 27.1% Black

Jose Serrano (NY) 70% score. District: 36.0% Black

Eliot Engel (NY) 60% score. District: 32.3% Black

Louise Slaughter (NY) 70% score. District: 29.2% Black

Robert Brady (PA) 70% score. District: 44.7% Black

John Spratt (SC) 70% score. District: 32.3% Black

Steve Cohen (TN) 70% score. District: 59.7% Black

Of the 22 members of the Hispanic Caucus, all but one scored 60-70 percent. John Salazar, of Colorado, was the low-scoring “Derelict” with 50 percent. It should be noted that only five CBC members scored 80 percent, the top grade this period, while three were “Derelict.”

With only five members, the Asian/Pacific-American Caucus tracked closely to the Hispanic Caucus. Two members scored 60 percent, two others at 70 percent. One, Neil Abercrombie, of Hawaii, registered 80 percent.

“The CBC is no longer vigilant in defense of civil liberties that go beyond the right to spend money wherever one wants.”

CBC Monitor notes that Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), whom we tracked because of his prominence in progressive politics but who does not fit in any of our Report Card categories, scored 90 percent – higher than any member of the CBC.

The voting behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus shows “by the numbers” that the CBC has been at least half-absorbed by corporate power, that it fails to reflect the near-universal African American aversion to U.S. military adventures abroad, and is no longer vigilant in defense of civil liberties that go beyond the right to spend money wherever one wants. Clearly, a grassroots purge of the congressional ranks is in order, district by district, until the CBC can once again claim to be “the conscience of the Congress.”

Leutisha Stills, spokesperson for the Congressional Black Caucus Monitor, can be contacted at ]]> ]]>This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ]]>.

Source: Black Agenda Report

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posted 6 February 2008




Home  Religion & Politics    Glen Ford

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