Democratic Rep. Artur Davis is the the only African American in Congress representing Alabama, and he was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to vote against the House Democratic health care bill earlier this month. And yesterday, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson apparently called him out for it.
"You can't vote against health care and call yourself a black man," Jackson said Wednesday night, the Hill newspaper reports. Jackson made the remarks at an event hosted by the CBC Foundation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jackson's presidential bid.
Jackson later told the Hill he "didn't call anybody by name," but he noted that the state of Alabama could benefit from health care reform because of its relatively high poverty levels. In a statement to the Hill, Davis avoided conflict with Jackson.
"One of the reasons that I like and admire Rev. Jesse Jackson is that 21 years ago he inspired the idea that a black politician would not be judged simply as a black leader," he said. "The best way to honor Rev. Jackson's legacy is to decline to engage in an argument with him that begins and ends with race."
Some CBC members defended Jackson's statement, but they also rationalized Davis' vote.
"Artur Davis has a more conservative constituency," Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said, according to the Hill. "Since he's running for governor of Alabama, he reflects an even more conservative constituency."
While Davis may be catering to the interests of the entire state of Alabama to advance is gubernatorial race, his own congressional district voted overwhelminglyfor President Obama in the 2008 presidential race.
A handful of major minority and civil rights groups injected race into the health care debate last month when they launched a series of ads linking the decades-long push for health care reform to civil rights.
The NAACP National Voter Fund, National Council of La Raza, Campaign for Community Change, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, PowerPAC.org and the United States Student Association said they were running the ads because "people of color have a special stake in health care reform." The coalition pointed out that minorities have higher rates of common problems like heart disease and cancer and also face higher insurance rates.
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