2 Senior Black Congressional Leaders Take the Safe Route and Back Biden for President

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.); Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.)
Photo: Tasos Katopodis (Getty Images for Yahoo Finance), Teresa Kroeger (Getty Images for Google)

Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and G.K. Butterfield (D.-N.C.), both former chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus, are throwing their political weight behind Joe Biden in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Cleaver says that while “there are others that I’m closer to”—an apparent reference to presidential hopefuls Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.)—Biden has the best shot to win a conservative of center state like Missouri, The Hill reports, citing an interview Cleaver did with the Associated Press.

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Butterfield cited electability in his decision-making as well, telling the AP that policies backed by apparent Democratic primary front-runners Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont were too progressive for his state of North Carolina.

“He can connect with the average American—black, white or brown,” Butterfield said of Biden. “Warren and Sanders cannot win North Carolina. I have great respect for both of them, but they cannot win North Carolina. Joe Biden can.”

For example, as the AP explains:

Warren and Sanders back free college tuition for public four-year schools, whereas Biden proposes only tuition-free community college. Sanders and Warren back single-payer, government-run health insurance to replace existing private insurance markets. Biden wants a “public option” plan that would be voluntary and sold alongside private insurance.

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However, as AP notes, Biden’s endorsement by the two septuagenarians is unlikely to increase support among younger black voters, who question Biden’s record, especially on things like the 1994 federal crime bill that critics blame for the exploding rate of mass incarceration.

Cleaver, stating that he himself supported the crime bill, said Biden had nothing to apologize for in that regard, telling the AP:

most of the Congressional Black Caucus supported the bill, along with nearly all black mayors from large cities, despite the bill’s sentencing measures that are now so heavily criticized. “Ministers, politicians, mayors, city council members were all screaming, ‘Let’s do something!’” Cleaver said.

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Butterfield told AP “he’d ask Biden’s younger critics ‘to be patient and do their research and see that Joe Biden has been directly involved with the positive gains that we have experienced in the African American community … for the last 40 years.’”

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