111th: TOP FIVE CBC LEGISLATIVE VICTORIES. Something that no one can ever take away from the 42 current members of the Congressional Black Caucus is that they were a part of one of the most productive Congresses in history. Even better, they were active participants as several members of the CBC got plenty done. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Chaka Fattah to name three.
Adding provisions to legislation focused on CBC priorities such as need based college financial aid (Rep. Fattah), child nutrition (Reps. Jackson Lee, Ellison, Fudge), consumer credit protections (Reps. Waters, Watt) AIDS funding (Rep. Barbara Lee), affordable college loans (Rep. Payne), equal pay for women (Del. Norton) and financial fraud (Rep. Bobby Scott) were just a few issues members of the CBC were not only involved in but their ideas became law. There is not much reporting on what members of Congress do right. And there is almost no reporting on what members of the Congressional Black Caucus gets done.
Here are just five examples of how the 42 members got results and changed law.
The 5 BIGGEST HIGH POINTS for the Congressional Black Caucus of the 111th CONGRESS
01. Health Care Reform Legislation. Led by Reps. Jim Clyburn, Charlie Rangel, Barbara Lee and Donna Christensen, members of the CBC helped pass legislation that Congress has been working on for over 90 years. The biggest and least spoken about provision was added by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn: A big allotment of cash to fund community health care centers which provide front line medical care for low income communities.
02. Financial Services Ten Shut it Down. Rep. Maxine Waters lead the charge, along with the 9 CBC members (Reps. Watt, Meeks, Clay, Cleaver, David Scott, Ellison, Green, Moore and Carson) on the House Financial Services Committee and camer close to delaying the Wall Street Reform Bill in a committee markup. In the process, her “let’s shut this mutha’ down” tactics result in frequent visits and consultations by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke. That series of meetings, under the threat of holding up the legislation via their ten votes and blocking other provisions, put focus on issues concerning black owned banks, consumer credit, foreclosures, loan scams, predatory lending and anything else you can name that affects low income communities and consumer interests disproportionately.
03. Cocaine Sentencing Disparity. Like issues concerning the poor in America, issues related to those incarcerated are rarely brought up by members of Congress though the U.S. has a higher rate of people in jail than any nation on the planet. With the exception of Reps. Bobby Scott, Danny Davis and Sen. Jim Webb the issue is almost never discussed. The number of people incarcerated in the the U.S. in 2008 was 2,304,115 at a cost of $63 billion per year. Many of those in jail are on non violent drug offenses. Many involving crack cocaine. After 26 years, and a generation lost, the sentencing disparity for powder cocaine users and crack cocaine users was finally changed. The Fair Sentencing Act was pushed over the line in 2010 by Crime Committee Chair Rep. Bobby Scott in the House and Sen. Dick Durbin in the Senate. Though the fact that sentencing for crack and powder cocaine offenses should be equal and no one can explain with a straight face why it is not, the changes implemented in the Fair Sentencing Act were very long in coming. The difference in the law, which resulted in young black males being tossed in jail at a higher rate than their predominantly white powder cocaine wielding counterparts, had long been talked about and studied and met on in endless Committees and forums. This legislation had been worked on over a twenty year period by Reps. Maxine Waters, Charlie Rangel, Mel Watt, Sheila Jackson Lee and John Conyers. The passage of the Fair Sentencing Act also represents one of the few examples of the Obama Administration (AG Eric Holder) working in concert with CBC members and winning.
04. Passing the Black Farmers Settlement. After 25 years of lobbying, National Black Farmers Association President and Virginia farmer John Boyd finally made it to the finish line long after black farmers sued and successfully proved discrimination against them for loans by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On Capitol Hill you can lobby all you like but if no one is listening you won’t be successful. Regarding black farmers, several CBC members were listening. There was much unproven talk of fraud regarding their long waited for settlement so Republicans in the Senate added a laundry list of provisions and hurdles black farmers will have to jump to get funds that should have been awarded years ago. Reps. Bennie Thompson, Mel Watt, Bobby Scott, G.K. Butterfield, David Scott, Sanford Bishop, John Lewis and Artur Davis were the CBC members who worked on the black farmers settlement over the last 15 years.
05. TIE: Waters Gets Office of Minority + Women Inclusion / Fattah Secure Student Tax Credit. Waters Wins Minority/Women Inclusion Office: Here is an example of something that would have never in a million years become law if Rep. Waters wasn’t in the room. She argued that “the inclusion of minorities and women within the Federal government’s financial services agencies is critical to the success of minorities, women, and minority communities,” and had that provision added to the Wall Street Reform Bill. “These offices are needed simply because minorities, women, and minority- and women-owned businesses continue to face challenges in accessing employment opportunities within these agencies and participating in the contracting opportunities provided by these agencies…” Hello. Fattah Secures Student Tax Credit: Ah yes, it pays to be a member of House Appropriations. Tuition tax credits up to $2,500 were added to the Stimulus bill in early 2009. Then it ran out. Then Rep. Chaka Fattah added it again in the massive $900 billion tax bill that passed last Friday. The provision “to provide up to $2,500 in higher education tax credits for students – a benefit worth $18 billion — will be extended through 2012,” thanks to CBC member and House. Appropriations member Chaka Fattah of Philly.