Congress vs. Adam Clayton Powell
The decision of the House of Representatives to exclude Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., can be interpreted only as a slight to America's Negroes.
The vote of the full House membership flagrantly disregarded the recommendations of a bipartisan committee chosen to investigate the numerous charges against Powell. The committee's proposals were severe -- Powell was to be censured, deprived of his seniority, fined $40,000, but seated. Three-hundred-seven congressmen didn't think that sufficient. Their ranks included, predictably, almost every representative from the South.
The House's decision to exclude Powell ignored the compelling argument for seating him: Powell fulfills the Constitutional qualifications for a place in Congress. Certainly the Harlem minister abused many of the prerequisites of his office, yet the recommendations of the select committee that were voted down would have served to punish his financial chicanery as well as removing him from the center of power he often used for purely personal advantage.
Powell's behavior could not pass unnoticed. But to refuse him the seat to which he was duly elected was a noxious affront to overwhelmingly Negro constituency. Its desire to have Powell as its representative has been -- and probably will continue to be -- quite clear. And as a Congressman, he has effectively and eloquently fought for Harlem's needs.
More important, Powell has for many Negroes come to symbolize the possibility of welding power in a white-dominated nation. His exclusion has understandably aroused the cry of racism from civil rights leaders and sympathizers across the nation.
Congress is a moral mess. Powell, but for his braggodocio, was not different from many of his colleagues. There are many more ethical abuses committed on Capitol Hill than the enumerated sins of Powell. If the House is serious about reforming the behavior of its members, it would do better to tighten up its rules rather than illegally venting its wrath on Adam Clayton Powell.