CBC Report Card 2016: Why the Congressional Black Caucus Can’t Lead Black America

CBC Report Card 2016: Why the Congressional Black Caucus Can’t Lead Black America

by Glen Ford with Patrice Johnson for CBC Monitor

 

The 41 full-voting Black Democratic members of the U.S. House scored higher than last year on the new CBC Monitor Report Card, but that’s mostly because there were far fewer controversial bills crossing their desks in a presidential election season. However, some Caucus members’ names seem to forever live in infamy: Terri Sewell, Marc Veasey, Sanford Bishop and David Scott. None of the Caucus is excellent, but there’s plenty of good, bad and ugly.

CBC Report Card: Why the Congressional Black Caucus Can’t Lead Black America

 

by Glen Ford with Patrice Johnson for CBC Monitor

The CBC has no independent existence or policy.”

 

If you are a Black voter seeking social transformation through the mechanisms of the Democratic Party, keep your expectations low – very low. The legislative performance of the Congressional Black Caucus provides a sobering lesson on how the political aspirations of Black people, the nation’s most progressive constituency, are turned to mush by the corporate duopoly machine.

There were no perfect scores in the latest CBC Report Card, base on ten key votes over the past year. Just like the scorecard issued in September of 2015, all of the full-voting Black Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives lost ten points for prostrating themselves before the power of the Israel lobby. Only four House members voted Nay, last month, to an “Expression of Support” for U.S. military assistance to the world’s last remaining apartheid state. None of them were Black, or Democrats. Therefore, the highest score on this year’s Report Card was 90 percent.

Near-Perfect Scores – Except That They Support Apartheid (90%)

 

 

Cong. Joyce Beatty
Cong. Yvette ClarkeCong. John Conyers
Cong. Danny DavisCong. Keith Ellison
Cong. Marcia FudgeCong. Hakim Jeffries
Cong. Brenda LawrenceCong. Barbara Lee
Cong. John LewisCong. Bobby Rush
Cong. Maxine WatersCong. Bonnie Watson Coleman

 

These 14 CBC members stand out from the rest of the pack ONLY because they bucked House Democratic leadership and President Obama in a key vote on so-called “war on terror” internet surveillance, as detailed, below.

Lowest of the Low

At the very bottom of the CBC barrel are David Scott and Sanford Bishop, the two Black members of the Blue Dog Coalition, both from Georgia. Back in 2008, 54 right-wing Democrats called themselves Blue Dogs. Only 14 remain, including Scott and Bishop, whose politics reflect a thin, marginal slither of Black public opinion, but who are elected because their race commands Black loyalties while their voting records make them acceptable to some southern whites.

Not Counted

Delegates Eleanor Holmes Norton, of Washington, DC, and Stacey Plaskett, representing the U.S. Virgin Islands, are not rated in the scorecard, because they cannot participate in full votes on the House floor.We also did not include Mia Love, the Black Republican from Utah, because she doesn’t represent any significant Black constituency. Moreover, the Report Card is valuable because it shows how Black politicians behave under the discipline of the Democratic Party. Rep. Love’s only usefulness to the Report Card would be to make Scott and Bishop look progressive by comparison.

Blacks for Big Brother (80%)

On December 1, 2015, the House voted on a Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass a bill that requires internet providers to report to intelligence agencies the names of internet uses that they suspect might be engaged in undefined “terrorist” activity. Civil liberties groups argued that the law would have a chilling effect on free speech and would encourage “over-reporting,” with internet providers using highly subjective political criteria to compile lists of potential “terrorists.” Only 36 House Democrats, mostly from the Progressive Caucus, resisted pressures from the White House and party leadership -- including the 14 CBC members that scored 90 percent in this year’s Report Card. The 16 members listed below, who scored 80 percent, would have rated “near perfect” had they not buckled under to Big Brother.

Cong. Alma Adams

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Corrine Brown

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Emauel Cleaver

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. James Clyburn

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Elijah Cummings

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Donna Edwards

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Al Green

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Sheila Jackson Lee

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Eddie Bernice Johnson

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Hank Johnson

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong, Robin Kelly

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Greg Meeks

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Gen Moore

key votes are items 4 and 9

Cong. Donald Payne

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Bobby Scott

key votes are items 6 and 9

Cong. Fredrica Wilson

key votes are items 6 and 9

Slim Pickings

The Report Card looks for full House votes that reveal the political differences within the CBC, in order to provide a better picture of the actual ideological spectrum of Black Democrats in Congress. Some years yield better evidence than others. During election years, which are every even-numbered year, House leadership avoids allowing votes on bills that might put too many of their party members at risk of the polls. This is especially true of presidential election years, such as 2016. Both Republican majority House leadership and minority Democratic leaders maneuvered to push or pull “safe” legislation to the forefront, steering clear of bills that could cause large fissures in their respective party ranks. Gridlock also continued to slow legislative activity. As a result, there were very few bills in which more than a few Black Democrats veered from the party line, either to vote with Republicans or to challenge Democratic leadership from the left. (The internet reporting bill was an exception.)

For these reasons, last year less than half of the CBC (18 members) scored 70 percent or above on the Report Card, while nearly three-quarters (30 members) scored 70 or better, this year. It was virtually the same Caucus, but with a much less controversial voting schedule, resulting in higher scores.

Nevertheless, eleven CBC members managed to score between 70 and 40 percent, voting against the interests of their constituents on four, five or six out of ten key votes on Foreign Policy (Numbers 1, 2, 9, 10), the Economy (3, 4), Civil Liberties (5, 6) and the Environment (7, 8) -- see CBC Scorecard for explanations of legislation.

Shameful and Defective (70%)

Cong. G.K. Butterfield

key votes are items 6, 7 and 9

Cong. Andre Carson

key votes are items 6, 8 and 9

Cong. William Lacy Clay Jr.

key votes are items 2, 6 and 9

Cong. Alcee Hastings

key votes are items 1, 6 and 9

Cong. Charles Rangel

key votes are items 4, 6 and 9

Cong. Cedric Richmond

key votes are items 6, 8 and 9

Cong. Bennie Thompson

key votes are items 6, 8 and 9

 

Stinking Up the Caucus (50%)

marc Veasey

key votes are items 5, 6, 7 8 and 9

Cong. Terri Sewell

key votes are items 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9

The Unspeakably Putrid (40%)

Cong. Sanford Bishop

key votes are items 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9

Cong. David Scitt

key votes are items 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 

 

The villains have largely remained the same or been replaced with equally putrid successors over the past decade or so, as is evident from a look at the 2005 and 2006 scorecards. Alabama’s Terri Sewell, who was tied with Sanford Bishop for “Worst of the CBC” last year, at 20 percent, ties with the deplorable Marc Veasey, of Texas, at 40 percent, this time around. Sewell is from the same district once mis-represented by Artur Davis, a former “Derelict of the CBC” from 2005 and 2006, who later gave up the masquerade and became a Republican. Veasey shows no signs of ever rising from the dregs.David Scott and Sanford Bishop have always lived in the world of Blue Dogs, which spins on a right-white axis.

Conscience of the Congress”? Not Really

What the CBC Monitor Report Cards bring into focus is that the Black Caucus is simply an appendage of Democratic leadership in the House. It has no independent existence or policy, and is therefore not a leadership institution for Black America. Rather, it is the Black face of the Democratic Party. Only about one-third of its members (the 14 that voted against the internet “terror” bill, last December, for example) are willing to break with their party on occasion.

That’s why, when Black America was in a state of rage at police terror in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, the CBC staged an impromptu anti-gun media event, attempting to change the subject to gun control, the Democrats’ preferred issue.

 

It’s why Rep. Alma Adams was nowhere to be seen when her constituents in Charlotte took to the streets in response to the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. The reason a low-scoring mediocrity like Raleigh-Durham’s Rep. B.K. Butterfield gets a turn at being CBC chairperson, is because there is no political content to the position. He, like his predecessors, answers to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi: the overarching truth embedded in the numbers displayed in the scorecard.

 

Key votes in the 114th Congress used for this CBC Report Card

1. Sept. 11, 2015

HR 3461

To Approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Signed at Vienna on July 14, 2015, Relating to the Nuclear Program of Iran.

Republicans defeated a bill to approve President Obama’s agreement to settle its nuclear dispute with Iran. CBC members Hastings and David Scott voted with the GOP. 

Bill Failed - House

Roll Call Vote 493

(162 - 269)

Points off for Nay vote: Hastings, D. Scott (Not voting: Hank Johnson)

 

2. Oct. 1, 2015

HR 1735

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016

Conference Report Adopted – House

The military spending bill, later vetoed by President Obama, would have impeded closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Roll Call Vote 532

(270 - 156)

Points off for Yea: Bishop, Clay (Not voting: Kelly)

 

3. Oct 7, 2015

HR 3192 Homebuyer Assistance Act

Banking and lending interests rammed through the House a bill to delay implementation of measures to protect homeowners from predatory lenders.

Roll Call Vote 540

On Passage

Passed House (303-121)

Yea Vote is a negative: D.Scott, Veasey

 

4. Nov. 17, 2015

HR 511

Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015

Bill Passed - House

(249 - 177)

Exempts a business or institution owned and operated by a Native American tribe and located on the tribe’s lands from the labor law provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (Sec. 2).

Points off for Yea vote: Moore, Rangel, Sewell,

Specifies that the provisions of this bill apply to any Native American tribe, band, nation, pueblo, or other organized group or community recognized by the United States (Sec. 2).

 

5. Nov. 19, 2015

HR 4038

American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act

The legislation erects a gauntlet of security hurdles designed to thwart settlement in the U.S. of refugees from Syria and Iraq.

Bill Passed – House

(289 - 137)

Points off forYea vote: Bishop, D. Scott, Sewell, Veasey (Not voting: Ellison, Watson-Coleman)

 

6. Dec. 1, 2015

H.R. 4127

Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016:

QUESTION:  On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass

This was a crucial vote on a bill that requires internet service providers to report to the government users that they suspect might be engaged in undefined “terrorist” activity, thus creating a chilling effect on freedom of speech and encouraging “over-reporting” by internet companies. Only 36 Democrats, mostly from the Progressive Caucus, voted Nay.

Passed - House

(364-58)

Roll Call Vote 649

Yea vote is negative: Adams, Bishop, Corrine Brown, Butterfield, Carson, Clay, Cleaver, Clyburn, Cummings, Edwards, Al Green, Hastings, Jackson-Lee, Hank Johnson, E.B. Johnson, R. Kelley, Meeks, Payne, Rangel, Richmond, Bobby Scott, David Scott, B. Thompson, Veasey, F. Wilson

(Not voting: D. Davis, Fudge, Rush, Sewell)

 

7. May 24, 2016

HR 897

Zika Vector Control Act

Republicans successfully used the Zika threat to weaken environmental protections against pesticide use in waterways. Four CBC members joined with GOP on this issue.

Roll Call Vote 237

Bill Passed - House

(258 - 156)

Yea vote is negative: Bishop, Butterfield, D. Scott, Sewell

 

8. June 8, 2016

HR 4775

Roll Call Vote 279 (Fracking Clean Air Loophole)

The House rejected an amendment to the Ozone Standards Implementation Act that would have allowed oil and gas frackers to release toxic pollutants into the air. A Yea vote is pro-environment. Six CBC members voted Nay.

Voting Nay: Bishop, Carson, Richmond, Sewell, Thompson, Veasey

Not Voting: Fattah, Jeffries, Payne, Waters

 

9. Sept. 13, 2016

HR.729

“Expressing support for the expeditious consideration and finalization of a new, robust, and long-term Memorandum of Understanding on military assistance to Israel between the United States Government and the Government of Israel.”

Only 4 members of the House voted Nay. The rest, including the entire CBC, endorsed increased military aid to the Israeli Apartheid State.

Bill Passed - House

(405-4)

All CBC members get points off for Yea votes.

 

10. Sept. 15, 2016

HR 5351 To Prohibit the Transfer of Any Individual Detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Yet another successful measure to prevent the trial or detention of Guantanamo Bay prisoners in the U.S., and to continue operations of the internationally reviled prison complex on Cuban soil.

Roll Call Vote 295

On Passage

Passed House (214-174)

Voting Yea: David Scott

Not Voting: Brown, Bobby Scott

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Patrice Johnson is a veteran journalist living in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins

 

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