Yesterday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Obama at the White House to discuss jobs.
There has been a gathering concern among Black lawmakers that the president is not doing enough to respond to their grievances about the economy and jobs, and how the recession is particularly affecting African Americans.
This week, a number of Black lawmakers – including congressmen Alcee Hastings (D-Fl.) and John Conyers (D- Mich.) – openly criticized President Obama for not “listening” to the CBC and paying too little attention to the needs of the poor.
After the CBC meeting with the president, I spoke with the 43-member caucus' Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) by phone about their closed-door discussion with the President.
She sounded upbeat and optimistic about the road forward. And while she stressed the direness of the jobs outlook for Blacks all over the country, she did not repeat any of the stinging criticisms of the President by some Black lawmakers overheard in the media this week.
Was your meeting with the President this afternoon a success?
Yes. It was a very good meeting. Very constructive. We talked about job creation, the chronic unemployment in Black communities and a number of the initiatives the CBC has been putting forward to address it.
Did you and other members communicate your concerns to the President about the administration's jobs bill.
It was a very candid and substantive meeting. The President was receptive. We discussed the overall health of the economy and a broad range of issues and ways we can turn them around.
Did the President promise any immediate – or even more longterm - action to address the high African-American unemployment numbers?
I think the president understands the problem and he has shown he's committed to resolving it. He's working on the summer jobs program. That is just one initiative that we'll be partnering with him on now. But we also talked about workforce training, direct job creation, the overall jobs infrastructure and how minority businesses can benefit from the stimulus bill.
How many members were in the CBC delegation at the meeting?
The majority of the members attended the meeting.
What about health care? Does the President have enough Democratic Party votes in the House and Senate to pass health care reform?
We're working on it. We're still looking at how it will pass in both the House and Senate. It's still a moving target, a work in progress. What we want now is the best possible bill. That's how we will get the most votes to support it.