Did Congressional Black Caucus Target Lott for Policies?

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

(Editor's Note: The following article contains quoted language some readers may find objectionable.)

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - A coalition of African-American House members has demanded that Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott resign his leadership position, but a closer examination of the group's positions indicates the attack may be more about liberal politics than perceived racism.

Almost immediately after his election to the post, the incoming leader of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) criticized Lott for allegedly racist comments made at a Dec. 5 birthday celebration for 100-year-old retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.)

"It sends a chilling message to all people," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Dec. 10. "Those are the kinds of words that tear this nation apart."

At the party, Lott referred to Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign, in which Thurmond ran as a segregationist "Dixiecrat" - the common name for members of the States' Rights Party - and praised his long-time friend and colleague.

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it," Lott said. "And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

CBC 'Not Finished With' Lott

Cummings said the members of the CBC, all of whom are Democrats, have not yet decided what to do about Lott's remarks.

"I don't know exactly what action we will take," he said Wednesday. "I do expect that when the body comes together, we'll make a decision."

Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) told reporters after the Dec. 10 election of CBC officers that, "We're not finished [with Lott] as a caucus."

"It was a shocking, piercing voice through the fabric of black America," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), the group's newly elected first vice chairman.

Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) was the first member of the CBC to call for Lott's resignation from the Senate leadership.

"He needs to step down," she said last week, "and I certainly am going to do all that I can to see that that occurs."

Lott issued several apologies, which Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) initially said he believed to be sincere.

"I accept that," Daschle told reporters. "There are a lot of times when he and I go to the microphone, would like to say things we meant to say differently, and I'm sure this is one of those cases for him, as well."

But Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who is also a member of the CBC, criticized Daschle for accepting Lott's explanation.

"Daschle spoke very quickly to put the fire out," Waters said, "so let him take the heat."

Waters said Democratic leaders should support the caucus in its outrage over Lott's remarks to demonstrate the Democratic Party's concern for African-Americans all of the time, not just when their votes are needed during elections.

Democrat's Racist Statement Unchallenged

A search of online news archives found no similar outrage over the use of the word "nigger" by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) during a March 4, 2001 interview on Fox News Sunday.

"There are white niggers," Byrd told host Tony Snow. "I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I'm going to use that word."

Byrd apologized for the remark and there was no ensuing criticism from members of the CBC or other African-American or "civil rights" groups.

Instead, members of the CBC busied themselves with other issues. For example, Waters' office issued a March 7, 2001 press release denouncing drug companies for not wanting to discount their HIV/AIDS medicines in Africa.

Most Black Caucus Members Belong to 'Progressive' Group

The politics of the majority of CBC members may have something to do with that apparent double standard. CNSNews.com has learned that 22 of the 38 members listed on the CBC website are also listed as members of the House Progressive Caucus (HPC), an offshoot of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The DSA hosted the HPC website until media reports exposed the links between the groups in the late 1990s. The website is now hosted on the official Internet servers of the House of Representatives.

The HPC website states that its members "share a common belief in the principles of social and economic justice, non-discrimination, and tolerance in America and in our relationships with other countries."

Those beliefs are converted to legislative priorities later in the HPC's "Statement of Purpose."

"We also seek to embody and give voice to national priorities which reflect the interests and needs of all the American people, not just the wealthy and the powerful," the document states. "We support curbs on wasteful, inefficient government spending at the Pentagon and elsewhere, a more progressive tax system in which wealthier taxpayers and corporations pay their fair share, adequate funding for social programs that are designed to extend help to low and middle-income Americans in need, and trade policies that increase the exports of more American products and encourage the creation of jobs and investment in America."

HPC members have introduced bills seeking universal taxpayer funded health care, higher income tax rates for workers who earn higher wages, "alternative" energy sources, a higher federally-mandated minimum wage, and a host of other liberal programs and ideas that - if enacted - would have expanded the size and power of the federal government. Lott has opposed most of the socialist concepts supported by members of the HPC, including those introduced by representatives who also have membership in the CBC.

A search of the American Conservative Union's (ACU) ratings for the lawmakers further illustrates the differences in their political positions. The group rated office holders on issues ranging from abortion to gun control, campaign finance restrictions to tax cuts, and from the Cuban trade embargo to a ban on drilling for oil in Alaska.

Cummings achieved a lifetime rating of three out of 100. Millender-McDonald's overall grade was five. Jackson Lee also scored a five. Watson earned a zero, while Waters achieved a three.

By contrast, Lott has an ACU lifetime rating of 93 out of 100. Lott cast only one vote against the ACU's position in 2001.

Democratic members of the House of Representatives who have membership in both the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Progressive Caucus are: Corrine Brown (Fla.), Julia Carson (Ind.), William "Lacy" Clay, Jr. (Mo.), John Conyers (Mich.), Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Chaka Fattah (Pa.), Earl Hilliard (Ala.), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (Ill.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (Texas), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Ohio), Barbara Lee (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), Carrie Meek (Fla.), Major Owens (N.Y.), Donald Payne (N.J.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Diane Watson (Calif.), Melvin Watt (N.C.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).

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