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Black Caucus Restricts Role of Its Only Republican Member

July 29, 1993| From The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday sharply restricted the participation of its only Republican member, Rep. Gary Franks of Connecticut, after his criticism of the Voting Rights Act.

The motion, passed without dissent among a majority of the Black Caucus' 40 members, would let Franks attend weekly luncheon meetings for only the first half-hour, when members typically eat and talk informally. The rest of the meetings would be deemed a caucus of black Democratic lawmakers.

Franks' role in the Black Caucus has been an issue since he announced and then rescinded his resignation last month, complaining that he paid the same dues as other members but was often excluded from the meetings. Last week, the caucus tabled a motion by Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.) to expel Franks. A senior member, Rep. William L. Clay (D-Mo.) on Tuesday issued a scathing 13-page broadside and suggested that Franks resign.

Reynolds said Wednesday's action achieved his objective. "In effect, it kicks him out of the caucus," he said.

Rep. Cleo Fields (D-La.) denied that the effect of his motion was to expel Franks. "It should not be viewed as putting Mr. Franks out," Fields said. "There's no law against him joining the Democratic Party. If he wants to join those meetings, he can join the Democratic Party."

Franks was not present for the vote and was unaware of it until questioned by a reporter. "I didn't know that. That's news to me," he said. "I don't see what material difference it makes. I'll still be speaking out as much."

Franks, whose district is 90% white, has criticized majority black districts created under the Voting Rights Act as racial gerrymandering.

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