Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sneak Attack on the Black Caucus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sneak Attack on the Black Caucus

Article excerpt

Some Republican plans to streamline Congress may improve government operations. Limiting committee chairmanships to six years, banning proxy voting and opening committee meetings to the public make sense.

But the decision to eliminate legislative service organizations neither makes sense nor saves money. It is a sneak attack on the Congressional Black Caucus, and an ill-conceived and incendiary strategy in a time of strained race relations.

Money to fund the legislative service organizations comes from the office budget of each member of Congress. Dues range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. The Republicans aren't suggesting that congressional office budgets be cut; their own high lives would be imperiled if they did. Instead, they're making it harder for House members to work together to fund groups like the Congressional Black Caucus.

The caucuses are efficient working groups that deal with the collective concerns of their members, providing joint research and lobbying in cases where legislative interests converge. The 23-year-old Congressional Black Caucus has been a linchpin in the struggle for a progressive agenda, highlighting issues that presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton tried to ignore.

For years, their alternative budgets have pragmatically argued that social spending and deficit reduction can happen if we simply cut the military budget. And the caucus isn't wandering in some isolated desert on the left: More than 100 members of the 102nd Congress supported the Black Caucus alternative.

Like term limits, grounding the caucus may come back to haunt senior Republicans. The caucus was targeted because it is too liberal, too Democratic and, yes, too black. Other alliances will bite the dust because they are too Republican, too right-wing and too white.

To call the caucus too Democratic is to buy into the argument that all Democrats think alike. The group's ideological bent, though mostly liberal, ranges from the progressive politics of Maxine Waters and Ron Dellums, D-Calif., to the more pragmatic moderation of William Jefferson, D-La., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. …

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