The two most-senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), 85, and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), 84, were honored at the CBC Foundation’s annual Avoice Heritage Celebration Dinner in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night.
Both were presented with the Distinguished Pioneer Award as founding members of the CBC. Conyers came to Congress in 1965 and Rangel in 1971—the two are now the most-senior members of the current Congress.
The work of their combined 94 years in the House of Representatives has contributed to the creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the end of apartheid and $300 million in federal grants for Detroit in 2013 alone. Conyers has led a continuous push against racial profiling and overincarceration, as well as for criminal-justice reform.
Both Rangel and Conyers were two of only 11 black members who voted against the Clinton crime bill in 1994, legislation that would lead to a spike in incarceration rates—particularly in black communities.
Conyers and Rangel arrived in Washington at a time when there were only 13 black members of Congress. There are now 48, the most in U.S. history.
In a place where seniority is king and longevity means power, Conyers and Rangel have been able to navigate the complexities of moving legislation. In a gridlocked Congress where little gets done, that skill is even more valuable.
As a member of the Ways and Means Committee in the 1980s, Rangel pushed through the low-income-housing tax credit, increasing affordable-housing opportunities, and passed the “Rangel Amendment,” ending tax breaks for corporations that did business with South Africa—a policy that would help bring down the country’s apartheid regime.
Source: The Root | LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE