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Congressman Robert C. ‘Bobby’ Scott, four other CBC members expected to lead House committees

Jeremy Lazarus | 11/21/2018, 6 a.m.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is expected to be a top Democratic priority in the next Congress, ...

Rep. Scott

Rep. Scott

Rep. Cummings

Rep. Cummings

Rep. Johnson

Rep. Johnson

Rep. Thompson

Rep. Thompson

Rep. Waters

Rep. Waters

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is expected to be a top Democratic priority in the next Congress, and U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Newport News will be in a prime position to lead the charge in January.

The 13-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives is one of five members of the Congressional Black Caucus poised to lead committees when the new Congress convenes in 2019.

Rep. Scott is expected to become chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that will consider increasing the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour.

Rep. Scott, the dean of the Virginia delegation who has represented Virginia’s 3rd District since 1993, expects to quickly get the long-stymied legislation through the House now that Democrats have won 38 seats from the GOP and will have at least a 234-seat majority in the 435-member House when the 116th Congress meets in January.

In Rep. Scott’s view, a hike in the federal minimum wage is long overdue.

“Today’s lowest paid workers earn less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than their counterparts did 50 years ago,” he said after winning re-election in November to his 14th term.

He added that such workers are more productive than their counterparts of 1968, but are not reaping the rewards of their labor.

It is unclear whether such an increase would pass the U.S. Senate, which will be more firmly in the grip of Republicans. The GOP gained two seats in the midterm elections and will control 52 seats in the 100-member Senate in the upcoming session.

A Mississippi Senate seat is to be decided in a runoff election on Tuesday, Nov. 27, with former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, a Democrat, seeking to upset appointed Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to become the state’s first elected African-American senator since Blanche Bruce in 1874.

Should legislation to hike the minimum wage pass both houses of Congress and secure a presidential signature, the resulting bill would largely impact Virginia and 20 other states that have refused to raise the state minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Starting January in the House, Democrats will control 21 major committees and six other panels that are more targeted.

The four other long-serving CBC members who are expected to become committee chairs include Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who is to chair Government Oversight and could investigate President Trump’s tax returns; and Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who is to chair Science, Space and Technology.

Also, Mississippi Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, who is to chair Homeland Security and have oversight over immigration; and California Rep. Maxine M. Waters, who is to chair Financial Services, which oversees banks.

Currently, all are the ranking or senior Democrats on those committees. Gaining the chairmanship would allow each to hire 30 committee staff members and to control their committee’s agenda.

They also will have a strengthened Congressional Black Caucus behind them. The newcomers to Congress will include nine more African-American members. With turnovers, the CBC is expected to have a record 54 members in the next Congress, four times as many as in 1971 when 13 Congress members formed the Caucus.

As a result, the CBC, which includes two senators, will rank among the largest caucuses in Congress.