The NAACP Legislative Report Card has served as a presentation of key civil rights votes taken in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives since 1914. It allows NAACP members the opportunity to view the civil rights voting patterns of their congressional representatives.
“The NAACP recognized the importance of holding members of the Congress accountable for how they vote on the bread-and-butter civil rights agenda of our Association,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy. “Since 1914, we began grading them on how they vote on issues that are crucial to our communities. During that time, the first policy position they were graded on was legal lynching.”
The report card on the following pages looks at the 115th Congress, which began on Jan. 2, 2017, and ended on Jan. 3, 2019.
The 115th Congress was quite busy. There were controversial votes on the confirmations of Betsy DeVos for secretary of Education, Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Brett Kavanaugh as an associate justice to the Supreme Court. The majority Republican Senate confirmed these nominees in bitter contentious fights.
Some lesser known legislation that Congress passed included the overturning of Obama administration regulations that required public school accountability on how the schools handled historically marginalized groups.
The 115th Congress passed legislation that would allow states to require drug tests for people collecting unemployment insurance. It also passed a tax reform bill which created a permanent reduction in corporate taxes and ended the “individual mandate,” a central tenet of the Affordable Care Act.
The NAACP supported Congress’ passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which would increase access to healthy food in underserved communities; expand investments in low-income, urban and rural communities; and provide resources for 1890 land-grant universities, which include many historically Black colleges. The NAACP also supported the passage of the First Step Act, criminal justice reform that will address the nation’s mass incarceration.
Though most of the grades are along party lines, with the majority of Democrats getting “As” and most Republicans receiving an “F” grade, there are some surprises. For example, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia received a “C.” And several House Democrats received C’s as well including Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Grace Napolitano and Lou Correa of California, and Tim Walz of Minnesota. Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind received a “D” on the report card.
“Too often, we have members running for office saying they support our agenda, but when we look at how they end up voting it becomes a whole different analysis,” said Shelton. “In some cases they vote against every aspiration for our families and our children as we look towards the future.”