WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Even as the Republican juggernaut continues to roll over all other Democratic opposition in Congress, decisive leadership by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) earned unprecedented support–in defeat–for the CBC budget alternative in a floor-vote March 17.
A record number of votes, including bipartisan support, were cast for the CBC effort to “close the disparities that exist in our society, support our troops and restore fiscal responsibility.” The House failed to adopt the CBC budget by a vote of 134-299. But that is the highest vote total the CBC budget has received since the Caucus began offering budget alternatives in the 1980s.
The CBC’s budget proposed to fully fund No Child Left Behind, promote improvements for homeland security, improve services for our veterans and invest in community-based initiatives. In addition, the CBC insists that its budget is more fiscally responsible than the Republican proposal and would reduce the record federal budget deficit by $167 billion over the next five years and save $27 billion in interest payments within the same period.
“By funding programs and initiatives to help close dramatic disparities in education, health care, economic opportunity, justice, retirement security and foreign policy, we clearly demonstrate our priorities which will make it possible for African Americans, and all Americans to reach their full potential,” said CBC Chair, U.S. Representative Melvin L. Watt (D-N.C.), in a statement.
To raise revenue for the CBC priorities, the budget proposed to roll back the tax cuts for an individual’s adjusted gross income over $200,000 and reduce funding by $7.8 billion for the Ballistic Missile Defense Program, leaving $1 billion for research and development.
The “bottom line” to the Caucus budget, however, is always how much of it is carried over into the real budget, according to Dr. Ronald Walters, professor of Political Science at the University of Maryland. “There was, I think, a monumental gesture of civility going on there,” he told The Final Call. “Basically, that was a show of support. I think they even got some Republican help,” he continued.
In the absence of any other Democratic alternative, the CBC did score a victory in the “leadership” arena, Dr. Walters pointed out. The CBC budget was the only Democratic alternative put forward this year, so it won support from members of the Hispanic Caucus and the Progressive Caucus, as well as from Republicans.
“The Caucus stepped forward and said: ‘We’ve got a budget. We’re taking the leadership.’ And the rest of the Democrats in the House said, ‘We’re going to support you.’ To that extent, it is a reflection of the fact that their view has wide support in the Democratic Caucus,” explained Dr. Walters.
Ironically, one reason the CBC budget alternative was able to win so much support is because Democrats are not in the majority. “In times when the Democrats control the House, and the Caucus has put together their budget, it hasn’t gotten those (many) votes.
“Now, you’ve got a situation where Republicans control the House, the Democrats don’t have a budget, and so the Caucus is really the only Democratic vehicle out there. That’s why I say, I wouldn’t over-play what it means,” said Dr. Walters, “except that, again, the reason that a lot of people in the Democratic Caucus supported it, is not so much because of African American views (become more predominant), but because most of what you see in that budget is applicable to other groups.”
“I wish I could say that (134 votes for the CBC budget represents a paradigm shift),” Dr. Walters concluded. “If the Democrats had controlled the House, and they had their budget, you would have seen that number come in around 40 or 50.”
“The CBC budget priorities affirm that homeland security and economic security are essential components of our national security,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). “Unfortunately, the Republican budget places a secondary priority on these two very important elements, because it is fiscally reckless and morally irresponsible. A strong America cannot tolerate the huge disparities created by the Republican budget.”