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Oversight: Representing the Interests of Blacks and Latinos in Congress

Michael D. Minta
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Oversightanswers the question of whether black and Latino legislators better represent minority interests in Congress than white legislators, and it is the first book on the subject to focus on congressional oversight rather than roll-call voting. In this important book, Michael Minta demonstrates that minority lawmakers provide qualitatively better representation of black and Latino interests than their white counterparts. They are more likely to intervene in decision making by federal agencies by testifying in support of minority interests at congressional oversight hearings. Minority legislators write more letters urging agency officials to enforce civil rights policies, and spend significant time and effort advocating for solutions to problems that affect all racial and ethnic groups, such as poverty, inadequate health care, fair housing, and community development.

    InOversight, Minta argues that minority members of Congress act on behalf of broad minority interests--inside and outside their districts--because of a shared bond of experience and a sense of linked fate. He shows how the presence of black and Latino legislators in the committee room increases the chances that minority perspectives and concerns will be addressed in committee deliberations, and also how minority lawmakers are effective at countering negative stereotypes about minorities in policy debates on issues like affirmative action and affordable housing.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4034-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    In 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region of the United States, causing major flooding and displacing many residents in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The storm was responsible for more than a thousand deaths, most of them in Louisiana. Many people were left homeless and with no place to turn for help. Although Louisiana state and local officials, such as Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin, received much of the blame from the national press and policymakers for not adequately responding to the disaster, the bulk of the criticism was directed toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)....

  6. 2 Race, Ethnicity, and a Theory of Substantive Representation in Congressional Oversight
    (pp. 16-34)

    In the early 1990s, black farm groups wanted the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement a court consent decree that required the agency to compensate black farmers for the department’s role in discriminating against black farmers in the farm lending program. Legislators and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) advocated for black farmers. Also included among those advocates was John Conyers (D-MI). Speaking out for the interests of black farmers was not a new role for Conyers, who has spent more than twenty years as a vocal critic of discrimination in the USDA’s farm loan program. Conyers has requested that committee oversight...

  7. 3 Congress, Minority Interests, and Federal Policymaking
    (pp. 35-53)

    The federal government’s commitment to protecting the rights of African Americans and Latinos has been uneven. At times it has played a strong role in protecting minorities against violations of their political, civil, and economic rights in the United States. For blacks, the end of the Civil War and the passage of several constitutional amendments by the Congress established citizenship and voting rights for former slaves. Blacks were formally incorporated into American civil society as equals; however, these freedoms would be short lived. As part of a compromise with Democrats, Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South in...

  8. 4 Black and Brown Voices in Committee Deliberations on Civil Rights
    (pp. 54-83)

    During much of the 1980s, black and Latino legislators, with the support of civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, complained that President Ronald Reagan and President George H. W. Bush had abandoned the federal government’s commitment to enforcing civil rights laws. They accused the Reagan and Bush administrations of appointing directors who were not sympathetic to charges of racial or ethnic discrimination, the most prominent being future US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas. Civil rights advocates argued that agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed to resolve many of...

  9. 5 Congressional Oversight and Social Welfare Policy
    (pp. 84-112)

    In the 1992 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton claimed that if elected, he would drastically reform welfare. True to his campaign promise, President Clinton supported a number of welfare proposals that included work requirements, time limits, and a reduction in benefits to legal immigrants. Many civil rights groups, to which a number of black and Latino members of Congress belonged, opposed these proposals because they believed they did not address the structural inequalities, such as lack of employment opportunities and racism in the labor markets that contributed significantly to welfare dependency. Minority legislators were also disappointed that a Democratic...

  10. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 113-126)

    In May 2009 President Barack Obama nominated US Court of Appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring US Supreme Court justice David Souter. If confirmed by the US Senate, Sotomayor would be the first Latino woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. However, controversy ensued after the nomination over comments she made during a speech she delivered at various universities. In the speech, Sotomayor said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”¹ Sotomayor’s statement...

  11. Appendix A Data and Methodology
    (pp. 127-131)
  12. Appendix B Coding Protocol for Congressional Hearings
    (pp. 132-133)
  13. Appendix C Racial/Ethnic Congressional Hearings Coded
    (pp. 134-135)
  14. Appendix D General Social Welfare Congressional Hearings Coded
    (pp. 136-138)
  15. Appendix E-G Likelihood of Intervention for Stronger Enforcement of Civil Rights Policies
    (pp. 139-141)
  16. Appendix H–J Likelihood of Intervention for General Social Welfare Policies
    (pp. 142-144)
  17. References
    (pp. 145-154)
  18. Index
    (pp. 155-160)