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Senior Congressional Black Caucus Member Endorses Joe Biden Despite Busing, Segregation Controversies

A senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, despite the frontrunner’s position on busing and recent praise of segregationists.

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Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) announced she was compelled to endorse the 76-year-old former vice president after having witnessed “first hand” his “commitment to getting real work done on behalf of all Americans.

“Now, our nation is at a crossroads,” Johnson said in statement, as first reported by Politico. “We, more than ever, need a leader who can bring people together and get our country back on the right track. This is why I am proud to endorse my friend, Joe Biden, for president of the United States.”

Johnson, who has served in Congress since 1993, is only the latest member of the CBC to endorse the former vice president. The endorsements have continued to flow, despite Biden offering praise for the “civility” of two segregationist Democrats, the late Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA), at a fundraiser in New York City last month. Biden invoked the two men, who dedicated their careers to halting the progress of civil rights, while touting his ability to forge “consensus” in Congress.

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden told a room full of donors with an attempted Southern drawl. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”

“Well guess what?” the former vice president continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

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The backlash against the remarks was immediate and intense. Rep. Bobby Rush, a fellow CBC member, denounced the comments as “woefully ignorant.”

“You would think that after eight years of serving as Vice President under President Obama, Biden would get it, that his frame of reference would be more audacious for the future and less on the obvious incrementalism of the past,” Rush said at the height of the controversy. The former civil rights leader added that Biden “has demonstrated that he is wholly out of touch and woefully ignorant of the nuances of the black American experience and that is, in itself, beyond disappointing.”

Not everyone in the CBC, however, shared Rush’s point of view or was wiling to take Biden to task so stringently.

“I don’t think the remarks are offensive,” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), another former civil rights activist, told reporters only days after Biden’s comments became public. “During the height of the civil rights movement, we worked with people and got to know people that were members of the Klan, people who opposed us, even people who beat us, and arrested us and jailed us.”

Despite Biden’s poor response to the public backlash, at one point even claiming that if anyone was owed an apology it was himself, the controversy died down. It was reignited, however, by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). At the first Democrat presidenital debate, Harris confronted the former vice president not only for his praise of Eastland and Talmadge, but also over his long record of opposing busing to desegregate public schools.

“It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing,” Harris said at the debate. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day. That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate. … We have to take it seriously.”

The confrontation left Biden and his team reeling to respond. It also set the California senator jockeying the frontrunner  for support among the 55-member CBC. Harris, as Politico noted,  currently holds a slim lead with seven members of the caucus backing her candidacy.

Johnson’s endorsement comes one day after a CBS News and YouGov poll found Biden leading the field of 2020 Democrats in Texas by double digits.

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