By Zenitha Prince
(Trice Edney Wire) – House Speaker John Boehner’s surprise September announcement that he was stepping down from the GOP congressional leadership effective Oct. 30 set Republicans scrambling to find a viable replacement. The looming deadline has also spurred the Congressional Black Caucus to seek resolution to issues affecting the African American community before another – perhaps even less cooperative – speaker is elected.
On Oct. 20, CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., sent a letter to Boehner asking him to fast-track time-sensitive legislative items such as African-American unemployment, criminal justice reform, restoring the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and investing in education and job training before his departure.
“As you end your term as Speaker of the House of Representatives, the 46 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) urge you to fully prioritize and address not only key issues whose deadlines are quickly approaching but issues that also affect the African American community,” the letter read. “We urge you to seize this opportunity to effect positive change for not only our Congress but for our nation.”
Butterfield cited statistics showing economic disparities experienced by African Americans and urged remedial action: the median income of African American households ($35,400) is almost half that of Whites ($60,300); more than one in four African Americans live in poverty (26.2 percent), almost triple the rate for Whites (10.1 percent); and the median net worth of White households is 13 times greater than Black households at $142,000 and $11,000, respectively.
The CBC also urged quick action on criminal justice reform which has gained bipartisan support. “The political will for criminal justice reform is present on both sides of the aisle, and we believe with your leadership significant legislative accomplishments can be achieved this session,” the letter read.
Butterfield also called for an end to restrictive voting practices and congressional action on the Voting Rights Act, investment in infrastructure and transportation systems, bipartisan agreement on the budget to avoid a government shutdown and more.
“Our nation looks to us, as Members of Congress, to legislate and to act in a manner befitting a leader. We urge you to have these critical conversations now and lead by example so that Congress governs responsibly and addresses these urgent priorities before it is too late. Seize this opportunity and stand on the right side of history,” the letter concluded. “You have an opportunity now to do what is in the best interest of our nation.”
See the full letter at https://cbc-butterfield.house.gov/sites/congressionalblackcaucus.house.gov/files/15.10.20%20Letter%20to%20Speaker%20Boehner%20on%20Legislative%20Priorities.pdf