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Supreme Court Rulings Leave Congressional Black Caucus Gloomy

By Elliot Jager   |   Wednesday, 07 May 2014 07:36 AM

With Republicans solidly in control of the House political agenda — and the Supreme Court vote last year striking down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as obsolete, followed by a ruling last month to uphold Michigan's affirmative action ban — the Congressional Black Caucus is grappling with how to move its agenda forward,  Politico reported.

Caucus members, led by Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, representative from Ohio, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and representatives of the NAACP, ACLU and other groups, strategized last week about what to do.

The caucus was founded during the Nixon administration. In the current Congress the group is comprised of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 41 House members, and two nonvoting delegates. All are Democrats.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan has co-sponsored legislation that updates the Voting Rights Act with a new formula to empower the federal government to oversee changes in state election law. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office said the proposal needs more discussion to take into consideration the concerns of all sides, Politico reported.

The past chairman of the caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, lamented the shift in the Supreme Court's position. "When I was growing up, our only hope governmentally was the federal courts and the Supreme Court. It is clear now that we can no longer depend on the courts," he said, according to Politico.

South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, who is also the assistant Democratic leader, said the best way to promote the caucus's agenda is to "stop agonizing and go to organizing." He said it was necessary to "change the make-up of this Congress."

In recent days, the caucus  has denounced the kidnapping in Nigeria of hundreds of girls and young women by the Islamist group Boko Haram; thanked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for ordering a policy review of an Army regulation that impacts the hairstyles worn by African-American women; and denounced the Supreme Court affirmative action decision. The group also is on record opposing the Republican budget proposal for fiscal year 2015.

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