Chairman-elect Emanuel Cleaver, (MO-5)
Incoming Congressional Black Caucus Leadership Faces Challenges in the Upcoming Republican-Led House
Sentinel Staff Report
As Democrats look ahead to the 2012 elections, some in Congress are looking to President Obama to better communicate his plans and successes over the next two years. In an interview, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairman-elect Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) recently echoed these sentiments: “The President is going to have to become a better communicator of what is going on, what needs to be done and of what we’ve done.”
Health care, women’s pay equity, so-called green jobs that help African Americans and millions of dollars for historically Black colleges and universities-these are Obama victories that should have been highlighted but were lost in the November 2 election. Passionate conservatives raised their voices and effectively drowned out Obama and his Democratic majority in the House of Representatives; the result: a Republican landslide.
Cleaver added: “We’ve done Pell grants and probably the average college student has no idea of what we’ve been able to do. A part of our job is to get information out.” The powerful outgoing CBC Chair, Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), whose term ends in January, will be replaced by Cleaver. As Cleaver assumes the chairmanship of the 42-member caucus, established in 1971, he foresees walking a thin line between the aisles: Republicans will no doubt do everything in their power to thwart an Obama reelection in two years.
“We operate with no illusion that this session of Congress will be very difficult for Democrats and our agenda. And there are issues that are unique to African-Americans,” Cleaver said, citing as an example legislation passed by the U.S. Senate paying billions of dollars, long owed to Black farmers in the Department of Agriculture race discrimination case. Even with warnings by President Obama, that bill could have been easily defeated in a Republican-dominated House. These are real, ominous potentials.
That means new alliances must be built. “We realize that if we have to reintroduce that kind of legislation in the 112th Congress, we would have to do so with support from Republicans,” Cleaver said. “That means we’ve got to think in terms of coalitions. We would have permanent interests and not necessarily permanent friends. Our permanent interests will require that we work with Republicans and we have no reservations about doing that.”
The congressman from the 5th Congressional District of Missouri knows something about building bridges. His district in only 17 percent Black, but he’s been elected twice as mayor of Kansas City and to Congress, four times by a decidedly White population. He says, “[This] means when I address issues that are uniquely Black, there is nothing wrong with it.”
High on his list of key issues will be the continuing high rate of unemployment among Blacks. “The mantra for the CBC will be jobs, jobs, jobs,” he says.
He promises to coalesce and even compromise in some cases but never, he says, will he and the 42-member Caucus ever compromise the interests of African Americans. “We will do nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing that would cause us to abandon our mission, which is to protect the interest of African-Americans and to provide them legislatively with opportunities and to move them into every realm of American life,” he assures.
Angela Rye, who currently serves as Senior Advisor and Counsel to the House Committee on Homeland Security, has been named Executive Director and General Counsel. Says Chairman-Elect Cleaver of her, “It is important that we have strong, innovative, and thoughtful leadership, which we have found in Angela Rye.” “Through her political, legal, and nonprofit background, I believe the wealth of knowledge Angela brings to the table is immeasurable and exactly what the CBC needs for the challenges and triumphs we will face during the 112th Congress,” adding I am certain that Angela and our team will provide the necessary direction and support for our ambitious agenda.”
Rye is charged with developing the legislative and outreach strategy for the House Committee on Homeland Security under the leadership of Chairman Bennie G. Thompson. She will focus on assisting disenfranchised, small, minority-owned businesses. Prior to her committee work, Rye worked for the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) as the Coordinator of Advocacy and Legislative Affairs. In addition, Rye is a co-founder of IMPACT, a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to enhance knowledge of the political and legislative processes; foster civic engagement; and enhance economic empowerment opportunities for other emerging leaders of color, ages 21 to 40.
Responding to the challenged, Rye declared: “It is an honor to work with Chairman-Elect Cleaver and the Members of the CBC during the 40th Anniversary of the Caucus… I am eager to continue building on the legacy of those who have come before me and look forward to working for and with our outstanding members of this great body.”
E. Brandon Garrett will be responsible for overseeing the legislative priorities and policy agenda, having been named Policy Director for the CBC. Working closely with the Members and their staff, Garrett will ensure that the Caucus continues the work of ending disparities and continues to create opportunities for all Americans. Presently he serves as the Legislative Director for Congresswoman Marcia Fudge. Prior to that, Garrett served as Legislative Assistant and Policy Advisor to Congressman William Jefferson.
Incoming CBC Communications Director Stephanie L. Young served as Press Secretary for Congressman Steve Cohen’s re-election campaign and Deputy Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee prior to her new position. The impressive director worked to register more than two million voters for the 2008 Presidential Election as the Communications Associate with Rock the Vote.