Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who chairs the CBC, described the 90-minute session to reporters at a post-meeting press conference as "productive." They discussed several issues, from criminal justice reform to the Voting Rights Act.
Targeted funding is a major priority for the group of Black lawmakers, who have been pushing for legislation that would address poverty in the nearly 500 counties in the United States that have for 30 years or more dealt with persistent poverty rates. According to Butterfield, Obama expressed a willingness "to work with us and try to find creative ways" to address poverty and CBC members hope he will issue some executive orders.
The meeting also included a presentation about criminal justice reform although, Butterfield said, the president does not need to be reminded about the tragedies in cities where "police misconduct went rampant." Obama, he added, a lawyer by training who has "lived in the real world" and worked as a community organizer, "gets it," and understands there are abuses in the system.
"We had a very robust conversation about criminal justice reform, not only about police misconduct but also about prosecutorial misconduct and the whole need to reform the criminal justice system and try to find creative ways to reduce incarceration in the U.S.," Butterfield said.
The CBC told the president that body cameras are a "step in the right direction" but also called for community policing and sensitivity training.
The North Carolina lawmaker said the group did remind Obama that African-Americans are not enjoying the benefits of the nation's economic recovery.
"The recovery is indisputable, there's no question about it: we are in a recovery, but for too many Americans, and many of them are people of color, the recovery has not reached their household," said the North Carolina lawmaker. "We wanted to inform the president that Black America continues to be in a state of emergency."
In a readout of the meeting, the White House said that Obama understands there's more work to be done to ensure that all Americans benefit from the nation's economic growth.
"He expressed shared concern with the CBC regarding the unemployment rate among African-Americans and reaffirmed his commitment to support and create policies that will help all hardworking families make ends meet, while boosting America’s productivity and giving workers the tools they need to secure the good jobs of the future," the readout said.
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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