WASHINGTON — Black members of Congress unveiled a 1,300-page bill Thursday that would increase spending for public schools, invest more federal funds in infrastructure projects and restore a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of mostly Democrats, concede the legislation stands little chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Congress, but said they wanted to lay out a blue print of their priorities for now and if Democrats win the majority in November.
“A lot of folks talk the talk when it comes to African-American communities, but few walk the walk,’’ said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “This bill will give them the chance to walk that walk.’’
The “Jobs and Justice Act of 2018’’ would among other things raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and target more funding to areas with high rates of poverty. It would also focus on criminal justice reforms, including setting up a commission to examine the impact of solitary confinement, eliminate the federal death penalty and push to end racial profiling.
The package is a compilation of bills from the 48-member caucus. Richmond said many of the measures are free-standing bills proposed members who are the top Democrats on key congressional committees.
“We will continue to put things in places where we can when we need to,” he said.
Black lawmakers have complained the Trump administration hasn’t done enough to address issues particularly impacting African American communities.
Early last year, the caucus met with President Trump at the White House and presented him with a 130-page policy report about the history of African Americans and the caucus. They said they were surprised how little Trump knew about issues faced by African Americans. They haven’t met with him since.
The administration, however, invited the caucus back for another meeting and has defended its efforts to help African American communities, including proposing more funding for historically black colleges and universities.
Caucus members said Thursday’s legislation was aimed at sending a message to Trump.
“Mr. President, we mean business,’’ said Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and a former chairwoman of the caucus.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said his civil rights organization and others will use support of the legislation as a litmus test in the mid-term elections.
“We know that many will say that this bill will not see the light of day, but I can guarantee you that the Urban League … will call the question to each and every one who struts into our community, dances into our community, walks into our community asking for our vote, where do you stand on the Jobs and Justice bill?’’ Morial said. “I want your name on the dotted line if you want me to pull the lever for you.’’