Power Centers

Rare Case Of House GOP, Democrat Agreement Suffers Florida Setback

Republican and Democratic House members agree on very little, to put it mildly.

And the gap is even greater when it comes to members of the House Republican Conference and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

But something Republican and Democratic incumbents generally agree on is the drawing of congressional district borders to safeguard their incumbent and partisan advantage and, in the case of the CBC, their racial upper hand in certain districts drawn to include mostly black voters.

So it's worth noting the decision of a U.S. district court judge in Miami Friday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two House members, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Democrat Corinne Brown, a CBC member.

The two federal lawmakers sued to stop a voter-approved amendment to Florida's constitution from taking effect. Amendment VI, approved by 63 percent of Florida voters last year, would place limits on how the state legislature draws the lines in an effort to reduce state legislators' chicanery in drawing congressional districts.

Diaz-Balart and Brown sued, arguing that the amendment violated the U.S. Constitution's "elections clause." That clause gives states the power to determine within limits, the "time, place and manner" of elections within their borders.

The Congress members argued that the federal Constitution required the state legislature and not citizens to determine redistricting decisions. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro disagreed, saying that the Framers and case law didn't support the lawmakers.

One interesting aspect of the case was that the federal lawmakers argued that their lawsuit was in the interest of greater racial minority representation in Congress.

From the Miami Herald:

The veteran lawmakers said their aim was not to preserve their political bases, but to ensure that Hispanic and African American voters can elect minorities to Congress in a state that had none not so long ago.

"I am disappointed in the judge's ruling," said Brown, a 20-year House member who was among the first black candidates elected from Florida to Congress in 1992. "But this is step one. We're going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court."

"We have been working hard to make sure minorities have the right to elect candidates of their choice," said Diaz-Balart, a 10-year House veteran whose district includes parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

What makes that argument problematic is that the NAACP actually sided with Florida voters, as did the ACLU.

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