Partisan ‘Bottleneck’ in Congress Still Hindering Civil Rights Gains, Says NAACP

Pharoh Martin, Wilmington Journal, February 9, 2010

The NAACP, the world’s oldest civil rights organization, has given the U. S. Congress an overall grade of B- on its annual Civil Rights Report Card for the first session of the 111th Congress Jan. 6, 2009–Dec. 24, 2009.

“They are moving in the right direction, unfortunately, they are still being bottlenecked by some of the challenges of getting agreements with both sides of the aisle,” said Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau chief, who has been helping to oversee the report card for the last 12 years. “Some of the progress that we’d seen has become much more partisan-divided.”

Since 1914, the non-partisan civil rights organization’s Congressional Legislative Report Card has graded the U.S. Congress on how they vote on what the NAACP deems as “bread and butter” civil rights legislation.

Congressional members are graded on how often they voted in agreement with the 100-year-old organization.

The current report card, released last week, shows an increase of the overall congressional grade from the previous year, but still not the kind of progress to make major impact on centuries of racial oppression.

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According to the current report card, 59 percent of Senators and 47 percent of Representatives received an “A”, a marked improvement from the previous report card on which 29 percent of Senators and 34 percent of Representatives received a failing grade of “F” on the report card.

The Senate was graded on 21 votes of which five were confirmation votes such as high-profile appointments like Hilary Clinton for secretary of state, Eric Holder for attorney general and Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

In both chambers the voting patterns of Republicans and Democrats were starkly different in their support of civil rights.

Out of 40 Republican senators, all received Fs, except three. Only Maine’s moderate Republican senators, Olympia Snowe (R- Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), received passing grades, both receiving a ‘C’ at 76 percent. George Lemieux (R-Fla.) received a grade of incomplete because he took over Mel Martinez’ senatorial seat in September. Martinez resigned to become secretary of the interior.

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Conversely, Robert Byrd (D-WV) is the only Democratic senator to receive a failing grade with 48 percent.

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{snip} All 40 voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus received an A except one–Artur Davis (D-Ala.), who got a B with only 80 percent, one point above a C.

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He [Shelton] concludes: “We’ll be looking at racial profiling. We are preparing a bill that will be introduced very soon that will take on that issue. We are be looking at additional health care issues and getting the omnibus health care bill through.”

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