Jan 14, 2017
In 1983, former U.S. Representative Katie Hall (D-IN-1) introduced a bill calling for the creation of a federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Rep. Hall and her colleagues successfully rallied bipartisan support from Republican cosponsors like Rep. Kemp (R-NY-31) and Rep. Siljander (R-MI-4). On November 2, 1983, President Reagan signed the bill into law -- establishing Monday’s annual celebration of Dr. King.
Founded in 1971, the mission of the Congressional Black Caucus is to advocate on issues within African-American communities and promote African-Americans to positions of power in Congress.
CBC membership has grown in both size and geography.
The CBC was founded by 13 members spanning 8 states and the District of Columbia. Forty-six years later, the CBC has grown to 49 members spanning 21 states as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
The 115th CBC is the largest and oldest in history.
Currently, the CBC is comprised of 2 Senators, 45 Representatives, and 2 non-voting congressional delegates making it the largest in history. The caucus includes 48 Democrats and 1 Republican representing a total of 78 million Americans (24% of the U.S. population) and 17 million African-Americans (41% of the African-American population).
More than 60% of the caucus is over the age of 65 and 80% of the caucus has served 20 years or more. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-1), a founding member of the caucus, was recently named Dean of the House of Representatives having held office since 1965.
The CBC continues to struggle with Republican membership.
Since the caucus was founded, there have been eight African-American Republicans elected to Congress of which only half joined the CBC. There are three African-American Republicans currently serving in Congress, Sen. Tim Scott (SC), Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23), and Rep. Mia Love (UT-4).
Sen. Scott and Rep. Hurd both declined to join the caucus making Rep. Love the only Republican currently serving in the CBC. Rep. Love is also the first and only female African-American Republican elected to Congress.
60% of the 115th CBC represent majority African-American districts.
According to the most recent American Community Survey from the US Census Bureau, 29 of the 49 members in the CBC hold office in districts where the African-American population is greater than 50%. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) represents the only majority African-American congressional district held by a non-CBC member. With 65.7% of his district represented by African-Americans, Rep. Cohen attempted to join the CBC but was denied.
The future of the CBC.
Historically, the CBC will request a meeting with the president at the beginning of each new Congress. The only president to deny a meeting with the CBC was President Nixon, and in turn, the caucus boycotted his 1971 State of the Union.
Following the testimony of CBC Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, Sen. Booker, and Rep. Lewis against President Elect Trump's Attorney General nominee Sen. Sessions, there is a new point of tension between the caucus and the presidency.
Will President Trump take a meeting?