Black lawmakers are likely to lead key committees in the new, Democrat-led House, and that means issues such as Hurricane Katrina relief, hate crimes and voting problems are likely to get much more attention.
“Within the Congress, their influence went from about a one to a nine,” said David Bositis, who analyzes black politics for the Joint Center for Economic Studies in Washington. “This is by far the peak—ever—for the Congressional Black Caucus.” Members of the group may head as many as five prominent House committees and 17 subcommittees.
Still, Vanderbilt University political scientist Carol M. Swain said, “it is historic.” Black representatives “certainly have more potential power.”
The 43 black members of Congress, all of whom are Democrats, include some of the longest-tenured representatives. Because committee leaders traditionally are chosen according to seniority, black members are expected to play important roles.