Melvin Watt

Melvin Watt

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* Democratic Member of Congress
* Member of the Progressive Caucus
* Member of the Congressional Black Caucus

Melvin Watt was born in Steele Creek, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on August 26, 1945 and grew up in a Charlotte suburb called Dixie. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1967, he went on to earn a J.D. at Yale Law School in 1970 and then became a civil rights lawyer. He served one term in the North Carolina state senate (from 1985 to 1986), and he managed several of Harvey Gantt‘s political campaigns (including Gantt’s unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate in 1990).

In 1992 Watt ran for a congressional seat in the newly gerrymandered 12th District of North Carolina. He won the Democratic primary with 47 percent of the vote in a four-way race, and in November he won the general election — thus becoming his state’s first African-American member of Congress in 92 years. Watt has been re-elected every two years since then.

A lifetime member of the NAACP, Watt belongs to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) consistently rates his voting record as 90-to-95 percent on the left side of legislation. During his years as a lawmaker, Watt has voted:

  • against Megan’s Law, which requires the registration of sex offenders (he was the only member of Congress to oppose this measure);
  • against the development of a national missile-defense system;
  • against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001;
  • against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act;
  • against allowing the U.S. government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives;
  • against a bill permitting the government to combat potential terrorist threats by monitoring foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States;
  • against an October 2002 joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq;
  • against the establishment of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror;
  • in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq immediately and by a preordained date;
  • against President Bush’s 2007 decision to deploy some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq;
  • in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention center;
  • against requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment;
  • against the Real ID Act, which proposed to set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards;
  • against separate proposals calling for the construction of some 700 miles of fencing to prevent illegal immigration along America’s southern border;
  • against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants;
  • against major tax-cut proposals in September 1998, February 2000March 2000July 2000May 2001May 2003, and May 2006;
  • against separate welfare-reform bills designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs;
  • in favor of prohibiting oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR);
  • against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf; and
  • against the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act,” which provided that if a baby somehow survived an abortion procedure, medical efforts should be made to save its life (rather than permitting it to die of neglect); and
  • against a resolution honoring Founding Father George Washington for his famous letter to a Rhode Island synagogue assuring its Jewish members that America gave “to bigotry no sanction.” (Said Watt: “For us to be applauding the statements discussing bigotry that were written by a person who owned slaves is a little bit more than I can, without a churning stomach, be able to tolerate.”)

For additional details on Watt’s voting record, click here.


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