The 116th Congress is scheduled to convene Thursday, Jan. 3, with Democrats taking over the majority and a Congressional Black Caucus that’s ready to face administration of President Donald Trump head-on.
On its official website, the CBC noted that it would flex its muscle like never before, poised to claim a pair of leadership slots in the House Democratic majority and a handful of committee chairman’s gavels.
The new clout comes from a significant gain in African-American members, which will push the caucus’s voting bloc to 52 members of the roughly 235 House Democrats. The CBC would account for 22 percent of all Democratic votes.
And, as the CBC’s website notes, these incoming members are a historic bunch who will give the caucus more influence in terms of the constituents they represent and greater clout with the Democratic leadership team looking to secure this new majority for many years.
CBC Member Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was elected chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (D-SC) was elected Majority Whip, making it the first time in history that two African Americans will hold top leadership positions in Congress at the same time.
“When the Congressional Black Caucus was founded in 1971, I know our 13 founding members dreamed of the day when we would have more than one member in our ranks competing for top leadership positions in Congress,” said outgoing CBC Chair Cedric Richmond (D-La.).
“When Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries articulated to our colleagues why they were the best candidate for Democratic Caucus chair, it was one of the best displays of black brilliance that I have seen in a long time. The unfortunate part of their race against each other was that one of them had to lose,” Richmond said in a news release.
“When former congressman George Henry White, the last African-American congressman to leave Congress before the Jim Crow Era, left office in 1901, he said in his famous farewell address, ‘This is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again.’
“Next Congress, the CBC will have 55 members, including two who will be in top leadership positions and five who will chair full House committees – former congressman George Henry White was right, and the Phoenix has risen.”
Also, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) was named to serve as the first woman and first African-American chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
Her appointment solidifies what’s already shaping up as a potentially powerful new session for the CBC.
“As Chairwoman, I will continue to prioritize protecting consumers and investors from abusive financial practices, making sure there are strong safeguards in place to prevent another financial crisis, expanding and supporting affordable housing opportunities, tackling the homelessness crisis, encouraging responsible innovation in financial technology, promoting diversity and inclusion in the financial services sector, conducting appropriate oversight and ensuring that hardworking Americans and small businesses have fair access to the financial system and opportunities to thrive,” Waters said.