Obama and Congressional Black Caucus Hold Long-Awaited Huddle

Lawmakers discussed education, jobs, immigration and more.

Posted: 07/09/2013 02:34 PM EDT

(Photo: Joyce Jones/ BET)

President Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus met today for the first time in more than 700 days. Although the group is always diplomatic when speaking publicly about their first African-American president, the number of times he's met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other Latino groups did not go unnoticed.

But today it was their turn and CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) told reporters later that they'd had a "very productive discussion" with Obama about a lot of issues confronting African-American communities.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), the House's third-ranking Democrat, said there was a particular focus on education and the role it plays in the double-digit African-American unemployment rate.

Clyburn also noted the "great anxiety" being experienced by families trying to get Parent-Plus loans to help finance their children's college educations, which has been exacerbated by the doubling of federal student loan interest rates.

The CBC has long argued for a targeted approach to economic challenges faced by low-income neighborhoods, while Obama has taken the "rising tide lifts all boats" approach.

"We are particularly interested in targeted funding for communities of need," Clyburn said, adding that "we were very pleased with the fact that the president is very responsive to that approach."

In an ideal world, that means ensuring that those communities get their fair share of existing government resources, like broadband deployment, education, water and sewage development.

"Whatever you're doing to improve communities, making sure they get to communities in need," Clyburn said. "And it creates jobs dramatically.

During the approximately 90-minute meeting, they also "began a conversation" about the Supreme Court's recent ruling on the Voting Rights Act, which has significantly weakened the landmark law. In addition, CBC members sought reassurance that any new immigration bill would include diversity visas for Black immigrants.

Some of the tougher questions of the day may have come from reporters who were quick to point out that 790 days have passed since Obama last met with the group. But according to Fudge, the lines of communication have always been open and will be even more so following the meeting.

"We will have broader and deeper discussions as a result of our meeting today," she said.

And while no follow-up meeting has been planned, Fudge said, "I'm certain if we need to have a meeting we will have one."

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