- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2021

President Biden’s wavering $3.5 trillion social welfare bill took another hit when Rep. Alma Adams said she’s a no vote unless more money goes to historically Black colleges and universities.

Ms. Adams, a North Carolina Democrat and top advocate for HBCUs, said Mr. Biden is shortchanging the Black schools in the massive spending bill.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for legislation that I sincerely believe will not serve its intended purpose,” she wrote this week to her Democratic colleagues. “If this language as written becomes law, it is accurate to say that HBCUs will only successfully compete for pennies on the dollar.”

Ms. Adams’ threat is significant as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi struggles to keep her Democrats unified on the $3.5 trillion bill. Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, can spare only three defections to pass the spending package as planned in a party-line vote.

Mr. Biden promised during the campaign to give HBCUs $57 billion to upgrade campuses and improve research facilities. The Government Accounting Office found in 2018 that 46% of the buildings at HBCUs needed repair or replacement.

However, the Black colleges are slated to get just $2 billion in the bill, a fraction of what Mr. Biden promised.

The scaled-down payment adds to Black voters’ disappointment with Democrats, who control all the levers of power in Washington but also failed to deliver on a promised racial justice overhaul of policing policies.

The HBCU protest vote so far has not spread beyond Ms. Adams, who is the founder of the Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus. But her vote alone is crucial for Mrs. Pelosi’s count.

The funding issue also hit a nerve in the HBCU community.

Harry L. Williams, CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund that supports HBCUs and their students, balked at the funding level for the schools in the massive spending package.

“We … are both surprised at and disappointed with the proposed level and allocation of infrastructure funding,” he said in a statement.

He said he had viewed the $3.5 trillion bill as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to put HBCUs on par with the county’s other colleges and universities.

His expectations were grounded in the massive spending bill’s focus on the left’s longtime goals for anti-poverty, education and health care programs, including initiatives to correct racial disparities in America.

The relatively small payout for Black colleges was particularly disturbing for the schools and their supporters because they had such high hopes for the Biden administration.

In addition to Mr. Biden‘s promises, Vice President Kamala Harris graduated from Howard University, an HBCU in Washington. She rented space at the university for her campaign headquarters in 2020.

During the campaign, Ms. Harris also promised HBCU presidents in a Zoom meeting that she would correct the longtime funding disparity between Black schools and their counterparts with predominately White students.

Mr. Williams said the HBCUs have asked for a meeting with the vice president. He also said Mr. Biden needs to be reminded of the promise he made in his election victory speech.

Mr. Biden said: “Especially at those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me. You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

“That’s literally what he said,” Mr. Williams said.

He hasn’t heard back from Ms. Harris’ office and the White House did not return calls from The Washington Times seeking for comment.

• Kery Murakami can be reached at kmurakami@washingtontimes.com.

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