National Urban League's Marc Morial, right, and Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People speak to reporters after their meeting with President Obama at the White House. (Photo: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The White House was quick to refute reports Thursday that lawmakers were close to reaching a deal in the ongoing budget talks. Instead, White House spokesman Jay Carney seemed to put the brakes on all that positivity that came spinning out of the briefing room this week. He told reporters, "The fact is that there is no progress to report, but we continue to work on getting the most significant deficit-reduction package possible, because we believe that it's the right thing for the economy and that done in the right way, in a balanced way, it will be good for growth and good for job creation."
Assurances were made that Congress is still working to raise the debt ceiling to avoid default. Carney said, "That is not in doubt. The only issue under discussion and debate right now is what kind of deficit reduction package can accompany a measure that would ensure that we do not, for the first time in our long history, default on our obligations."
Wrangling over the budget seems to have stolen the spotlight from another crisis brewing overseas: the conflict in Syria. But Carney said the situation is still on the radar and that the U.S. calls on the Syria regime to cease the violence and continues to enlist our international partners to help bring the violence to an end.
The oppressive heat today was a fitting environment for what many believe is an oppressive job climate for African-Americans. That's why the president held a 25-minute meeting with leaders from the NAACP and National Urban League, two of the nation's largest and oldest civil rights groups.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, characterized the meeting as positive saying, "We talked about the debt limit and deficit reduction and the crisis in jobs. I believe we came away with the view that deep budget cuts in social programs would be counter-productive, not only to our community but to the nation at large. We continue to raise our concerns that those kind of cuts would disproportionately impact African-Americans."
Asked what he could say to struggling people who are skeptical about whether a meeting of this kind is more than mere window dressing, Morial said, "It's important for us to engage the president. I'd hope that people would not harbor criticism that these things don't have an impact. We're going to continue to push here, push on Capitol Hill and push in the space of public opinion."
NAACP President Ben Jealous spoke with the president about the rise in job discrimination. The newest incarnation targets people based on their credit score, criminal record and the amount of time they've been unemployed. Jealous believes African-Americans are impacted by this more than other groups but says, "The president will be taking action and is making it clear that agencies within the federal government will take this issue on."
Morial presented a 12-point plan to put Urban America back to work. He believes Obama will take some of the ideas into advisement and will renew his focus on jobs once the immediate economic crisis subsides.
"I know that Washington is concerned about the debt ceiling but African-Americans are worried about the ceiling over their heads," said Morial.