NAACP grades Congress
By Krissah Thompson
Despite being at the center of a racial firestorm in January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scored an A on the latest report card from the NAACP.
The Nevada Democrat may have raised hackles with his pre-election comments describing President Obama as "light-skinned" with no "Negro accent," but his voting record was something the 100-year-old civil rights group cheered in a new report card out later today.
The association ranked each member of Congress on support of NAACP's policy positions, based on 21 key votes cast last year in the Senate and 25 votes in the House. Fifty-nine percent of senators and 47 percent of House members received an A, and 29 percent of senators and 34 percent of House members received an F.
On the whole, Democrats were far more likely to get high marks than Republicans. The exception was Blue Dog Democrats, who mainly received Cs, Ds and Fs.
Issues included everything from a vote for increased funding for after-school programs to one on in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes to how members voted on bills that would overhaul the health-care system.
The NAACP has been scoring Congress since 1914 on its civil rights agenda, making its report card -- a favorite accountability tool among Washington groups -- one of the oldest in the country.
"It doesn't matter what party you are, if you vote with us you're our friend," said Hilary Shelton, director to the NAACP's Washington Bureau. "If you don't, you're not."
By that measure, Reid was a friend. He voted with the NAACP last year on every issue except a bill that banned the D.C. government from prohibiting an individual from possessing firearms. The NAACP opposed the bill. Reid voted for it. The bill passed.
The juxtaposition of Reid's high marks and the backlash caused by his controversial comments are one example of the complexity of race that report cards can't measure, said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.
"At the end of the day, our experience with racism teaches us many things. It teaches all of us that you ultimately judge people by the walk they walk, by what they do not what they say," he said. "There's a big difference between giving an inartful reason for why an African American should break a glass ceiling and giving an inartful reason why he shouldn't."
Web Politics Editor
February 4, 2010; 10:48 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Culture Wars
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