Monday, December 18, 2006

Congressional Black Clout

The new 2007 House of Representatives is still a couple of weeks away from convening, and yet many members of that august house are already looking forward past next year toward the 2008 presidential race. Those forward-looking lawmakers include the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but these purpose-driven congressional delegates have another agenda that is, to their minds, of even more import. Clout.
The Congressional Black Caucus, in its 35th year, has grown to a new level of influence. Three of its members now chair major House committees: Michigan Congressman John Conyers (the Judiciary Committee); New York Congressman Charles Rangel (Ways and Means) and Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson (Homeland Security).

Amaya Smith, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, says beyond the CBC chairmanship and subcommittee chairs, key members are becoming powerful players in the presidential race because of their influence. That includes Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the new majority Whip.
Of course, the whole reason the CBC was formed 35 years ago was to unite black lawmakers in their efforts to better serve their primary constituency, black Americans, right?
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks [I've always wondered: Is that her given name or a nickname?] Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, says her role will be to galvanize the clout of CBC constituents to help Democrats win the presidency in 2008...
As I have said so many times before, I think the members of the Caucus would do a much better job of serving their constituents if they were to focus their attention on the betterment of their communities, rather than their continuing, single-minded ambition for more and more political power. If they truly want to help their constituents, perhaps they should be looking for a different sort of clout.

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Parting Shot

Now that Washington has closed the door on the 109th Congress, I think we're really going to miss one former lawbreaker... er, lawmaker. While she didn't accomplish much for her once loyal Georgia constituency, Rep. Cynthia McKinney certainly did provide us all with plenty of laughs and good memories with her inspirational service in the House.

Although she publicly despises Republican President George W. Bush, Ms McKinney was well known in DC for arriving early to the halls of Congress for State of the Union addresses and any other occasion when the president was on hand to address the Congress, and procuring a seat right on the aisle in order to take every advantage of getting her picture taken with the commander-in-chief.
She has hosted numerous panels on Sept. 11 conspiracy theories and suggested that Bush had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks but kept quiet about it to allow friends to profit from the aftermath. She introduced legislation to establish a permanent collection of rapper Tupac Shakur's recordings at the National Archives and calling for a federal investigation into his killing.

But it was her scuffle with a Capitol police officer that drew the most attention. McKinney struck the officer when he tried to stop her from entering a congressional office building.
In what has become the expected response from this grand lady of politics, the race card was played to the fullest effect, and she was never indicted for the act.

Much to her chagrin, Rep. McKinney was unable to play that same race card when she found herself ousted by Georgian voters earlier this year. For the first time in her career she faced another black Democratic candidate, and the voters jumped at the chance to replace her.

But true to form, Ms McKinney left her former colleagues with as much class and panache as she entered their presence -- with a parting shot only she would dare to deliver.
In what was likely her final legislative act in Congress, outgoing Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney announced a bill Friday to impeach President Bush.
McKinney ... has long insisted that Bush was never legitimately elected. In introducing her legislation in the final hours of the current Congress, she said Bush had violated his oath of office to defend the Constitution and the nation's laws.
The legislation has no chance of passing and serves as a symbolic parting shot not only at Bush but also at Democratic leaders. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made clear that she will not entertain proposals to sanction Bush and has warned the liberal wing of her party against making political hay of impeachment.
Luckily for all of us, Ms McKinney is -- as always -- much more interested in seizing the limelight than being a team player, so Speaker (that title still rankles) Pelosi's warnings bore little weight to this lame duck.

We'll miss you, Cynthia!

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