Black Caucus Sees Race as Factor in Filibusters, Eyes Rules Change

Nov 22, 2013
In The News

The Congressional Black Caucus is fed up with Republican filibusters of President Barack Obama’s nominees, which several black lawmakers said they believe are motivated in part by race.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated Tuesday that it’s time to take action after Republicans blocked another judicial nominee Monday, and he’ll have strong backing from black House Democrats who will meet Wednesday to plot a strategy for moving stalled African-American nominees through the Senate.

“I don’t know what’s gonna be discussed, but I know what needs to be discussed,” said CBC member G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. “We’ve got to seriously address the abuse of the filibuster rule in the Senate.”

CBC members are still reeling from the three-week-old stalled nomination of their colleague, Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency — and are also raw from Monday’s filibuster of an African-American judge, Robert L. Wilkins, to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though Republicans insist the filibusters are tied to legitimate concerns about the need for additional judges on the D.C. Circuit, or, in the case of Watt, on his qualifications for the job, CBC Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge on Monday suggested that race and other factors were at play, citing the number of minorities and women who have been filibustered.

And other black lawmakers insisted Tuesday that race is a factor.

“It’s not the controlling point but it’s a factor, no question about it,” Butterfield said. “The fact is, no sitting member of Congress in 150 years has been denied an up-or-down vote on a confirmation. Race has got to be a factor here.”

“It goes without saying,” added Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., another senior member of the CBC. He called Republicans the descendants of Confederates.

“No one makes a big deal of it, but if you’re a fly on the wall in any of their homes — I’ll tell you what: If you track the Confederate Army to the Dixiecrats, to the conversation of the Republicans, to the districts that were affected, you may be dealing with different labels, but if they were ever able to track down their ancestors, there’s a Confederate general in every damn living room.”

As for what House Democrats can do to force Senate Republicans’ hands, it’s not much.

“I’m not sure there’s much pressure the CBC members can put on the Senate,” said Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., also a member of the CBC.