A recent blog post by a conservative blogger sought to portray House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s new position of Assistant Democratic Leader in the 112th Congress as a slap in the face to African Americans across the country without any knowledge of Clyburn’s new role or his value to the Democratic caucus.
Last month, Jim was elected by his colleagues to continue as the number three Democrat in the House. He will maintain his position as the highest-ranking African American in the House of Representatives and the only African-American in Democratic Leadership. In his new role, Jim will be intimately involved in the policy agenda of the Democratic Party and play an important role in the appropriation process and helping Democrats refine their message to connect with middle income Americans who have slowly drifted away in the last few cycles. Most importantly, he will continue to be a strong advocate for faith voters and those communities whose voices are seldom heard when critical decisions are made.
As Majority Whip, Congressman Clyburn was an extremely effective consensus-builder, rounding up the votes for what has been called the most productive Congress in decades. Thanks to his leadership and precise vote counting skills, we were able to pass the Recovery Act, health care reform (which included landmark student loan reform and historic investments in historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions), Wall Street reform, and many other pieces of legislation that are helping to move our country forward.
At the Democratic Leadership table in the 111th Congress, Jim fought for increased funding for school construction in the Recovery Act, $2.5 billion to expand broadband access in rural communities, $2 billion for community colleges, and the Patient’s Bill of Rights that lifts the lifetime benefits cap, keeps children on their parents insurance until age 26, and bars insurance companies from dropping coverage because of a pre-existing condition. He was also instrumental in reducing the crack cocaine sentencing disparity and getting Congress to fund the settlement for our nation’s black farmers.
Congressman Clyburn is uniquely prepared and positioned to advocate for, and advance the interests of members of the Congressional Black Caucus and our constituents. Furthermore, he also has developed strong relationships with the other six Democratic caucuses through his work as Democratic Caucus vice-chair, Democratic Caucus chairman and Majority Whip. He represents a largely rural district in a red state in a section of the country he shares with many members of the Blue Dogs hail coalition. And, Jim Clyburn will be a regular part of our Leadership’s interaction with the President and the White House.
Along with several other inaccuracies, the blog professes that Clyburn was forced to withdraw his bid for Minority Whip and claims this is another example of the black candidate being forced from the race. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jim Clyburn remains in the number 3 Leadership position for the 112th Congress just as he was in the111th.
Jim Clyburn knows that our path back to the majority runs largely through minority communities. He also knows that the Latino community is extremely important to our Caucus and had no interest in pushing Rep. Xavier Becerra from the leadership table at such a critical moment.
Lastly, the blog makes the bogus claim that the black community did not stand up for Jim during this race, again without knowing any facts or doing some basic research. The Congressional Black Caucus met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to express our concern about the leadership races, our position on Jim’s seat at the leadership table and other issues we feel strongly about. Rev. Al Sharpton, Tom Joyner, Roland Martin, the National Newspapers Publishers Association, the National Organization of Black County Officials and many others played active roles in Jim’s recent quest because they know how important his leadership is to our country.
I am delighted that Jim will be sitting at the Leadership table in the 112th Congress fighting for our community as he has done in the past. We need his wisdom and judgment now more than ever to make sure that our Caucus does not lose sight of its responsibility to the American people and moving our country forward.
Barbara Lee represents California’s 9th Congressional district and Chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.