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December 21, 2014

Posts in "Congressional Black Caucus"

December 3, 2014

‘Hands Up’ Joins Legacy of Boston Tea Party, Rosa Parks, Selma, Lawmaker Says (Video)

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(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as a symbol of protest against injustice is here to stay, Rep. Al Green said Wednesday on the floor of the House.

“This is not going to go away,” the Texas Democrat said during a short, public response to critics — chiefly MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough — who have taken issue with Green’s and other black lawmakers’ use, during congressional proceedings two days earlier, of a gesture that has come to symbolize frustration over the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Green said the “Hands Up” movement that has germinated in the wake of last summer’s shooting is the latest in a long line of historic protests, including the Boston Tea Party, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Selma march and Rosa Parks’ refusal to sit at the back of the bus in Montgomery. Full story

November 25, 2014

Congressional Black Caucus Members React to Decision in Ferguson

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Fudge calls the grand jury’s action a “slap in the face.”  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just as America seems divided on the death of a young black man in Ferguson, Mo., members of the Congressional Black Caucus are showing their own divisions over the racially charged incident that has prompted many in Congress to wonder how they should respond.

A CBC spokesperson told CQ Roll Call Tuesday that the special orders hour on the first day the House is back, Monday Dec. 1, would be on Ferguson, but knew of no legislative response lawmakers were planning to take, including legislation to address the militarization of police. There were calls for hearings this summer on the Pentagon-to-police weapons program after the initial protests erupted in Ferguson, but there were no such calls Tuesday — at least not yet.

Instead, it’s been words — statements and tweets — that have marked the different approaches to Ferguson. And Monday night, after a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police offer who shot and killed unarmed teen Michael Brown this summer, members further showed their divisions. Full story

November 19, 2014

CBC Rallies to Defend Brown, Democrats’ Seniority System

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Brown, who had the most seniority, is the new ranking member of the VA Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Wednesday was a good day for the Congressional Black Caucus: In just a matter of hours, the powerful group saw Democrats’ seniority system — a tradition that has long protected minority lawmakers from being passed over for leadership positions — prevail not once, but twice.

First, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. — the No. 3 Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee — beat the No. 5 panel Democrat, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California, in the race to be ranking member.

He’s not a member of the CBC, but Pallone showed that lawmakers had no intention of bowing to pressure from some party leaders, such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to disregard the House Democratic Caucus’s deference to the decades-old seniority precedent. Full story

Messy Fight for Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Slot (Updated)

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Brown, left, and Walz, center, each are vying for the ranking member position on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:28 a.m. | Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota thought there would be a vote after Thanksgiving on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member race. As it turns out, his face-off against Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida will happen on Wednesday.

It gives Walz less time than he and his allies said they anticipated to build support around his uphill challenge of Brown, who benefits from seniority and the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, of which she is a member.

Before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee can meet to vote on a recommendation to the full House Democratic Caucus, Walz will have to clear an additional hurdle: A vote on whether he is even eligible to hold the post.

Walz is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress and has had a seat at the Veterans’ Affairs Committee table since 2007. He is, however, on the committee via waiver, and his opponents say it doesn’t qualify him to run against Brown, who after nearly two decades on the committee is next in line to succeed the current retiring ranking member, Michael H. Michaud of Maine. Full story

November 17, 2014

High Stakes for Pelosi, Party With Energy and Commerce Fight

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Eshoo and Pallone are locked in a race for the Energy and Commerce ranking member slot. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 11:50 a.m. | It started as a race to choose the next ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee; it could ultimately end as a referendum on the status quo.

When House Democrats finally settle the score this week, their choice between Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California could send a strong message about how deeply members still hew to the seniority system.

And in a caucus growing increasingly antsy over the stasis at the leadership table, this ranking member election could be the closest thing to an up-or-down vote on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that members get for the next two years.

Pelosi, who has repeatedly endorsed her close friend Eshoo, is expected to run unopposed for a sixth full term as the House’s top Democrat.

Lawmakers will not say so publicly, but many of them think that if Eshoo loses, it will be because she became a casualty of greater frustrations within the caucus.

The fight sparked by California Democrat Henry A. Waxman’s retirement announcement in January became so dramatic because there was never a clear front-runner or an easy choice. Stakeholders agree Pallone and Eshoo’s policy positions are nearly identical, and their legislative records are unblemished.

So members were forced to consider other factors: Who called them first to ask for their vote? Who gave them money in a tough re-election bid? Who has always been their friend? Full story

November 13, 2014

Black Caucus Defends Seniority System as Members Try to Buck the Trend

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Don’t undercut seniority, warns Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Fudge. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Congressional Black Caucus is fighting back against new suggestions — particularly coming from the very top of House Democratic leadership ranks — that seniority ought not be the be-all-end-all when it comes to doling out plum committee leadership assignments.

Spearheaded by outgoing Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, the CBC sent out a “dear colleague” email Thursday night to reiterate its support for seniority “as the primary determinant in the committee leadership selection process.”

Under the current system, the CBC would be represented at the top of seven House committees — a record CBC members contend was only possible because seniority prevents black lawmakers from being passed over, intentionally or otherwise.

Fudge’s email comes as the conference weighs a ranking-member race on Energy and Commerce between the more-senior Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Anna G. Eshoo of California.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has endorsed her close friend Eshoo multiple times over the past 10 months, on Monday going so far as to send out a letter of her own, calling seniority “a consideration” but “not a determination.”

The real test for the CBC, however, could be if one of its own members, Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida, loses the ranking member spot on Veterans’ Affairs to the least-senior member of the panel, Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota. Full story

November 10, 2014

Pelosi Downplays Seniority System in Endorsing Anna Eshoo for Committee Assignment

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Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On Monday afternoon, and for the third time this year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed her close friend and fellow Californian Rep. Anna G. Eshoo for ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee — and said House Democrats should consider seniority “a consideration” but “not a determination” in doling out committee leadership assignments.

The minority leader’s suggestion that colleagues loosen up on a long-held deference to the seniority system in regards to Eshoo’s bid against the more senior Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey is likely to ruffle feathers across the House Democratic Caucus.

It might be particularly irksome to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which sees seniority as a way to protect their own from being passed over for chairman and ranking member slots. Full story

November 7, 2014

Tim Walz Challenges Corrine Brown For Veterans’ Affairs Seat

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Walz seeks leadership role on Veterans’ Affairs. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Tim Walz will seek the ranking member seat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, setting up a potentially ugly fight when House Democrats are still reeling from Election Day losses.

At first blush, Walz is an ideal candidate. The Minnesota Democrat is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress. Though he’s technically the least senior member on the committee — he gets a waiver to sit at the bottom of the roster so he can continue serving on two other panels — he’s actually the third longest-serving member there. He’s more moderate than others in his party and veterans’ services organizations think he can work well across the aisle if need be, a Democratic aide said.

A source familiar with Walz’s thinking told CQ Roll Call he has informed leadership of his intention to run and, if elected by his peers, would gladly give up one of his current committee assignments — most likely Transportation and Infrastructure.

But Walz’s real obstacle is that he’s going up against Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., who is the next in line for the job with current ranking member Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, retiring at the end of the year. Full story

November 6, 2014

What Election Night Meant for House Democratic Leadership

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Pelosi  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Despite midterm losses of at least 13 House seats, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to face any serious calls to step down as the leader of the Democratic Caucus, party insiders tell CQ Roll Call.

Members, aides and operatives say Pelosi and all of her lieutenants are expected to be unopposed in their bids to retain leadership posts.

By Wednesday afternoon, just hours after the GOP convincingly claimed control of the Senate and tightened its grip on the House, Pelosi was telling colleagues she would run for re-election as leader.

But just because the 2014 midterm elections won’t precipitate a systematic takedown of the current leadership team doesn’t mean the results won’t reverberate across the caucus.

Here are three ways Tuesday’s grim showing will impact the caucus in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Full story

October 22, 2014

Energy and Commerce Rivals Battle to the Wire

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Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Since January, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Anna G. Eshoo have been positioning themselves as the obvious choice to be the top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

But after 10 months of cutting checks and courting colleagues, they’re still not finished campaigning to replace the panel’s current ranking member, retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California.

Members of the House Democratic Caucus won’t settle the hotly contested race until late-November at the earliest, meaning Pallone of New Jersey and Eshoo of California will have to stay on the offensive, showing they’re both team players and power players who are ready — and able — to help their friends out.

Along the way, they are pulling pages from the same playbook — with a few key exceptions.

Full story

October 10, 2014

Where Does Pelosi Play? The Fine Art of Surrogate Campaigning

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California’s Becerra, left, campaigns in Colorado with Democratic House candidate Romanoff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House members who want to help their party in the final stretch of campaign season have options. They can offer endorsements. Make calls. Write checks.

But sometimes, nothing says “I care” like getting on a plane and flying across the country to stand alongside a colleague.

In the month before Election Day, members not fighting for their political lives are expected to be team players — and one way to do that is by traveling to different congressional districts as campaign “surrogates.”

It’s not as simple as just showing up: Being a good surrogate is an art, and considerable thought, time and effort go into deciding who should go where, and when, and in what capacity.

Each member has his or her own edge.

Budget Chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., will draw a crowd, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can bring in buckets of money (she’s raised more than $400 million for Democrats since 2002). Others can open doors that might otherwise be closed, or help a vulnerable member shore up support among a flagging constituency.

And every ambitious lawmaker on Capitol Hill knows that stumping for a fellow member or potential colleague can pay off down the road.

Full story

September 18, 2014

Energy and Commerce Race Heats Up as Election Nears

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Ranking member rivals Eshoo and Pallone chatted earlier this year at a press conference. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

After a quiet couple of months, the race to be the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee is heating up again.

As the November election nears, the two Democrats vying for the party’s top spot on the panel are stepping up efforts to show off their clout.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey made the bolder move on Thursday, releasing a letter signed by 50 of his supporters that outlines why they think he should be given the assignment over his opponent, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California. Full story

August 14, 2014

Cantor Voting Rights Act Legacy is Failure to Deliver, Democrats Say

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Democrats wonder if Cantor was all talk on the Voting Rights Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Passing a new Voting Rights Act in the GOP-dominated House was never going to be easy, supporters acknowledge. But with a powerful Republican such as Eric Cantor as an ally, hope flickered for nearly a year.

Then came June 10 and the shocking primary defeat that tanked Cantor’s congressional career — taking with it, in all likelihood, any prospect for an update of the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation that had been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling.

Even with Cantor as majority leader, said a House aide close to the VRA negotiations, “I would have speculated that it was certainly a very steep climb. That it was unlikely, but there was still hope.”

But with the Virginia Republican out of the mix, the aide said, “it doesn’t appear we’re going to see it this Congress.”

It’s a disappointing turn that has some Democrats wondering if Cantor ever deserved the benefit of a doubt on minority voting rights. Full story

June 24, 2014

Issa, Cummings Clash Anew Over IRS Loss of Emails (Video)

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Democrats spent much of Monday’s IRS hearing criticizing Issa’s handling of the proceedings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee went after IRS Commissioner John Koskinen again Monday, while Democrats on the panel reserved much of their ire for Chairman Darrell Issa.

Issa, involved in a high-profile clash earlier this year with Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the panel, was criticized repeatedly during Monday’s hearing by Democrats who dismissed the proceeding as election-year posturing.

At one point, the California Republican warned Democrats that House rules forbid members from questioning the integrity or motives of other members — touching off a heated protest from Rep. Steven Horsford. The Nevada Democrat angrily contrasted Issa’s admonition Monday with the March 5 incident, in which Cummings’ microphone was turned off mid-statement on Issa’s orders.

Full story

May 14, 2014

If Conyers Leaves Congress, Fight for Top Judiciary Democrat Looms

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After Conyers, Nadler is next in line in seniority on the Judiciary Committee, but others could challenge him if Conyers fails to win re-election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If Rep. John Conyers Jr. can’t win re-election after he was ruled ineligible for the Democratic primary ballot Tuesday, it could set up a fight for the ranking member slot on the Judiciary Committee, with House Democrats already divided in an increasingly ugly showdown between two colleagues vying for their party’s top slot on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The re-election of Conyers has been thrown into doubt after the 25-term Michigan Democrat failed to collect valid signatures to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot.

Conyers could seek to keep his seat by challenging the ruling, launching a write-in campaign or running as an independent, but if none of those contingency plans pan out, it will leave an opening several of his colleagues could be eager to fill. Full story

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