Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
HONORING THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS DURING THE 115TH CONGRESS; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 208
(Extensions of Remarks - January 03, 2019)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E1747-E1748] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] HONORING THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS DURING THE 115TH CONGRESS _____ HON. CEDRIC L. RICHMOND of louisiana in the house of representatives Thursday, January 3, 2019 Mr. RICHMOND. Mr. Speaker, I rise to honor the work of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 115th Congress. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) spent the 115th Congress fighting against attempts to return this country to darker days by being fearless in telling our truth. Black Americans, who helped build the very Capitol in which we stand, are once again witnessing our own government set the wheels in motion to turn against us. This Congress, led by a group of people cozier with the one percent than with the forgotten man or woman, has worked with this Presidential administration to turn back the clock. The CBC has stood up for our values time and time again to say that we will not go back to those dark days. We have been unrelenting in standing against this tide and will not shy away from this battle. The CBC has worked tirelessly to infuse morality into the legislative debates during the 115th Congress and perform tireless oversight into the harmful policies of this Presidential administration. Since this President took office, he has led efforts to reverse substantive policies that have helped black Americans and failed to stem the tide of hatred and racism that made a strong resurgence during this divisive tenure. The lack of moral leadership has endangered disenfranchised communities and policy decisions have eroded critical economic, health and education programming. The Caucus has taken every opportunity to lift every voice to object to hurtful and immoral lawmaking while engaging the public in conversations about the stakes we were facing. The CBC had to fight for our values from the earliest days of this Congress, with an incoming President nominating a number of unqualified people to lead his cabinet agencies, including then Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who the President wanted to appoint to the Department of Justice. I represented the Caucus alongside my colleagues Senator Booker and living legend Representative John Lewis in speaking out against Sessions' lifetime of support for troubling policies that impeded the progress of black Americans. The President wasted no time in partnering with his allies in this Congress to advance an agenda that carried water for billionaires while ignoring the nation' s most vulnerable citizens. The Caucus once again reprised its role as the Conscience of the Congress by opposing this Congress and this White House as they worked in concert to attack vulnerable communities by neutering programming that served them. When the White House planned a national voter suppression and intimidation effort, the Congressional Black Caucus criticized the Administration's sham ``Voter Integrity Commission'' for seeking to solve a voter fraud issue that was clearly non-existent. In a few short weeks, the states themselves rose up against this effort and it mercifully perished due to a strong resistance against its undemocratic underpinnings. When the President demonstrated an uncomfortable coziness with Russian operatives the Caucus performed oversight. When the Department of Justice re-energized the war on drugs the Caucus stood firm in its opposition to restoring policies that unfairly targeted black citizens in law enforcement activity feeding an unsustainable mass incarceration machine. When the President asked the Caucus and black communities ``What the Hell do You Have to Lose'', the Caucus went to the White House with a 130 page policy document educating this President about issues facing black America. We provided dozens of policy options that a serious White House could have leveraged to improve the lives of Americans of all colors who face challenges. We haven't heard back. The CBC responded to the White House's immoral budget request with its own budget, infused with morality and justice. The Caucus' budget proposal invested in education, jobs and healthcare while asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share. The budget received strong support in a floor vote and we are going to continue to introduce spending plans that invest in the important things in this nation in a responsible fashion. The CBC stood up against the injustice sought by this Congress when it planned to cut taxes for billionaires while robbing health care from struggling families. This crisis of morality in Congress was compounded by an administration that was sabotaging affordable health care at every turn. Facing a moral crisis and the potential for enduring pain, the CBC called on everyone to think twice before hurting tens of millions of Americans. We raised our voices against the injustice of failing to invest in new jobs for hard working Americans while Congress handed corporate giants billions of dollars in tax breaks. All the while the President sought historic cuts to programs that seniors, children and families rely on to live. We have pointed out repeatedly that these morally bankrupt policies will also endanger the country, impairing future investments in our human capital and other important resources to all of our eventual detriment. The CBC has been actively fighting against a steady stream of increased hate crimes and public racism. When this President failed to condemn white supremacists and Nazis, the CBC called for racists to be purged from this White House, and within weeks, most of the most odious and hateful people around the President were gone. We also called for white supremacist figures to be purged from Congressional spaces and for Confederate symbols and statues to be removed. We have also continued to fight for a more fair criminal justice system that gives ex-offenders a second chance while holding wayward police departments accountable for unconstitutional policing practices. Our members have been on the front lines of pushing for deserving non-violent offenders to re-enter our community and for police departments to restore humanity to their interactions with our neighborhoods. When the FBI made up a new term to describe politically engaged black Americans, ``black identity extremists'', the Caucus spoke truth to power, meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray to demand that the FBI provide more insights into the origins of this harmful term and explain how it might impact their investigations. We made it clear that we expected the FBI to not target Americans simply due to their physical characteristics and political views. This felt like a throwback to an earlier, darker period in our history, when the FBI surveilled black Americans it found objectionable. We told Director Wray that the CBC would not stand for a COINTELPRO 2.0 and that his investigations needed to be done absent the stain of a poorly worded term such as ``black identity extremist''. The Caucus also repeatedly stood up against inept and unqualified attorneys and jurists being offered up for lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary. Thanks in large part to the work of the Caucus, some of the most horrific institutional racists are not on the bench today. And this will stand as a testament to the work of the Caucus infusing morality into the deliberations of legislators in this Capitol. When African and Caribbean countries were disrespectfully referenced by being called ``shithole countries'' the Caucus called for those remarks to be censured. At the first state of the union, this Caucus stared the hateful policies in the face and showed the [[Page E1748]] world that we would not let a hurtful administration impose an ounce of fear upon us. In addition to performing robust oversight, this Caucus set out to introduce legislation that would protect vulnerable communities while investing in the future. Our members put significant work into addressing a host of issues that would improve outcomes for black families and for all Americans that yearn for better. The Caucus' 1300- page bill, the Jobs and Justice Act of 2018, is a blueprint for serious legislators that want to bring change to this country in an inclusive way. I hope that the next Congress leverages the work this Caucus has done by implementing much of the bill in the important legislation that is to come. This Caucus also worked to hold corporate America accountable for ensuring that all of America was represented in its ranks and to ensure that their businesses were not being leveraged to harm communities of color. We called on the largest companies and investors in America to diversity their boards, c-suites and supply chains. We also called on powerful social media companies to invest in more diverse workforces to better identify attempts to weaponize platforms to inflame racial tensions. In addition, we called on technology companies to better address implicit bias in the development of new artificial intelligence tools to ensure that these new tools demonstrated more promise than peril. When the history books are written, this Congress will be cited as a failure. Instead of serving as a constitutional check and balance against a historically corrupt President with repressive instincts, this Republican led Congress enabled and emboldened an unqualified executive to run roughshod over civil liberties and the rights of underserved and struggling communities. It is no surprise that several members of this Caucus have been some of the earliest voices to examine whether the constitutional remedy of impeachment is an appropriate tool to address the dangers this President poses to our republic. This Congress has been an embarrassment and has failed American families time and time again. But like a phoenix rising, Americans have chosen a different direction. The House of Representatives will be under new leadership in just a few short days, ushering in a new era of oversight and morally infused legislating with members of the CBC in key positions to deliver better outcomes for Americans of all kinds from all races and from all parties. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are members of the human race who care for their fellow man and woman. We come from communities that have been long forgotten over the broad sweep of American history. These same communities have bred hope and promise during these same times. Our optimism and faith has never wavered, even at the darkest times. We have come this far by faith. And we have miles left to go before we sleep. The members of this Caucus will continue to lead in the debates that matter. It has been an honor to serve as the chairman of this incredible group of legislators. I pray that in our service, the 48 members of this bi-partisan, bi-cameral caucus have made our ancestors proud and our constituents eager to continue to work with us to advance the interests of all communities that seek to be led by men and women of conscience. We walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and have not yet completed the journeys that they started when they were first forced off overcrowded slave ships onto the shores of this nation. This has been an imperfect union, but it is one that is worth fighting to preserve. As I yield the chairmanship of the CBC to incoming chair Karen Bass of California, I wish her strength and resolve for the fights to come. I pray the Lord will guide her steps to continue the work of our ancestors and the work of the 13 Founders of the CBC, who came together in 1971 to raise their voices to confront the massive challenges that faced them at that time. Many of our challenges are the same though the times have changed around us. I know that Representative Bass will continue to lead this Caucus with intelligence, integrity and courage. I wish her well and I thank my colleagues for the opportunity to serve them as chairman. Mr. Speaker, I celebrate the Congressional Black Caucus during the 115th Congress. ____________________