02-19-2017  3:56 am      •     

 

Only six Black members of the House of Representatives voted for the recent passage of the $124 billion Iraq supplemental, which passed 280-142, while 31 of their colleagues voted against it. However, Democrats largely voted against it 140-86 while passage was made possible with 194 Republican votes, only 2 voting against it.

 

The Congressional Black Caucus was accountable on this vote, since Blacks have been the strongest community against war in the Middle East. As an example, a Pew Center poll in 2003 showed that while 44 percent of Blacks supported the war, 73 percent of Whites supported it; but a recent Gallup poll found that 85 percent of Blacks say the war was a mistake (53 percent of Whites) and a poll by Blackmilitaryworld.com says that 73 percent of Blacks feel that the disastrous 50 percent drop in Black military recruitment is related to the war. So, Blacks have been and are still firmly against the war.

 

Blacks in the leadership had a more difficult time since there appears to be a price, as both Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Bennie Thompson, chairman of Homeland Security voted for the bill on passage. However, to say they were merely following the leadership may be too simplistic, since Speaker Nancy Pelosi outright voted against it and David Obey, Appropriations Committee chairman said on the floor of the House that although he worked on it, he "hated it."

 

Staunch war opponent John Murtha, chairman of the Armed Services Committee voted for it because money for the troops would run out in a few months, putting them at greater risk of casualties, and thus, making Democrats politically vulnerable to Republican charges of having created the situation. Murtha's basic reasoning was that there was only a one vote majority in the Senate, which prevented a policy change at this moment (so a vote against would be merely symbolic). This reasoning was repeated by Rep. Kendrick Meek of the Black Caucus on C-Span one day before the vote as a guide to his own action.

 

Nevertheless, other Blacks felt free to oppose this bill because it had such strong Republican support and therefore, the party would not be vulnerable for not having failed "to support the troops." Sens. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton both voted against the Iraq Supplemental, not wanting to be vulnerable to their own constituencies. But if there could be no basic change of policy because Democrats have such a thin margin in the Senate, then the Clinton and Obama votes (add the rejection of John Edwards) were symbolic as well.

 

But let's get down to brass tacks. Most members of the CBC also were released from voting for the war spending bill knowing that there was going to be a huge Republican vote for it, and that this would be enough to carry forward the domestic measures ("sweeteners" is what they're called) in the bill that Democrats had inserted. The bill contained new money for Katrina and Rita disaster relief, bolsters funding for Medicaid and Medicare, and increases the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. This amounts to about $24 billion, money that they delivered by riding on war spending and might have had difficulty getting otherwise.

 

Such tactics have become substitutes for direct legislation dealing with critical problems that face urban areas where large populations of the "undeserving poor" are involved. Direct legislation for such purposes is now routinely held up, subject to the question, "where is the money coming from?" while priorities favored by the powerful get taken care of, even if the funding has to come in the form of budget deficits. Even with respect to this bill, George Bush and the Republicans railed against the domestic spending as "pork" that should be taken out. So, this Appropriations bill that extended the funding for the Iraq war was not only a deal between Democrats and Republicans that traded "benchmarks" for a date-certain timeline for withdrawal, it was also a deal that traded war funding for some critical domestic priorities.

 

Undoubtedly, because of the strong Republican support for war spending, a broad group of Democrats beyond the CBC, including those in the "Out of Iraq" camp, but also many of their more moderate colleagues, felt free enough to vote against the bill. In doing so, they understood that the domestic spending measures would pass which they favored because the socioeconomic status of many whites has likewise been threatened by the diversion of badly needed spending for domestic priorities, combined with the decline in jobs due to competition from low-wage immigration and foreign competition in the American auto industry.

 

We are likely to see this strategy used again and again. Democrats use Republican votes for the war to fund domestic priorities. Sad but true.

 

 

 

Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar, Director of the African American Leadership Institute and Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all