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Who is the Black Caucus?

What is the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)? Who are its members and what do they want? Over the past few months a flurry of mainstream organizations have attempted to analyze the CBC and the impact its 40 members are having on the nation. Publications as diverse as Business Week, the Wall Street Journal and the National Review seem intrigued by the CBC, its leaders, regional strength and bright, new members.

What drives this sudden interest? Speculation points several ways. One group of observers says the CBC's growth from 26 to 40 members in the 1992 election unnerved white politicians, political insiders and their constituents. It also surprised white journalists. The reason: For many years the old CBC was an entity heard but not seen or felt, as its predictably liberal carping echoed through Congress then dissipated rapidly.

The new CBC not only can criticize but also has the votes to inflict pain. On the House side, this means the 38 black representatives (Eleanor Holmes Norton is a nonvoting delegate from Washington, D.C.) have clout. On the Senate side, Carol Moseley-Braun (D-III.) has only one vote, but often only one vote is needed to pass or block a bill that affects millions.

This new black power leads some Afrocentric political insiders to rejoice and grow paranoid. First, they see the CBC's powerful swing vote potential and the impact it could have on addressing the problems of African-Americans. But these analysts fear a white backlash, which some say began last summer with the Supreme Court ruling that minority-designed congressional districts may violate white voter rights. Most of the CBC's new representatives hail from newly created black districts in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Alabama.

Ironically, some Republican conservatives welcome the CBC's growth. The attraction is neither the CBC's Republican wing - Rep. Gary Franks (R-Conn.) is its sole GOP member - nor is it simply the fact that the creation of minority districts consolidates votes in adjacent predominantly white GOP districts.

Their glee comes from watching the CBC wield its numerical clout against fellow Democrats, particularly Bill Clinton. Why? Theoretically, the overwhelmingly Democratic CBC is President Clinton's natural ally. But as Clinton scurries to the ideological center, cutting programs and dumping appointees such as Lani Guinier, CBC members wonder who their friends are.

The easiest way for the CBC to express controlled anger has been to block pieces of Clinton's proposed legislation. Last spring, the caucus temporarily united with Republicans attempting to defeat a Democratic-led version of the presidential line-item veto. With Clinton's rightward list, CBC members foresaw decimation of social and economic items dear to them. Thus, their goal was twofold. One, to thwart Clinton. And two, to get his attention and then to let him know that certain items on the CBC agenda cannot be cut casually.

This fall, Congress has a full agenda. Key bills include health-care and welfare reform. And CBC members are setting their own legislative agendas. Sen. Moseley-Braun will continue co-sponsoring bills addressing: reverse redlining (when residents of selected neighborhoods can get mortgages, but only at very high rates); community development banking; and violence against women. CBC chairman Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) sees the group pushing bills that would revitalize the Minority Business Development Agency as well as provide more minority equity capital. The CBC hopes the White House and Democratic leadership understands that black legislators, with political clout, can no longer be viewed as paper lions.
Proposing a bill is no guarantee that it will become law.
During the first four
months of 1993,(*) the CBC sponsored 153 bills or resolutions
and co-sponsored
another 2,396. Following are the CBCS most active legislative
 Sponsor Co-sponsor

 Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun D-III. 3 52
 Rep. Cardiss Collins D-III. 36 56
 Rep. Major R. Owens D-N.Y. 15 81
 Rep. Charles B. Rangel D-N.Y. 10 111
 Rep. John Conyers Jr. D-Mich. 9 66

(*) January 5, 1993 to April 19, 1993. Source; Black
Congressional Monitor, Washington D.C., May 1993.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Congressional Black Caucus
Author:McCoy, Frank
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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