After a contentious summer, it seems the Congressional Black Caucus has found harmony with President Barack Obama.
In August, CBC members like Rep. Maxine Waters of California and John Conyers of Michigan were declaring that they White House needed to do more to address high unemployment in the black community. Waters specifically called for “targeted” programs that would directly help struggling black families. There was an air of combativeness in the tone of comments coming out of the CBC’s multi-city “for the people” jobs tour.
Now, the tone has changed.
Last Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus sent out an email blasting Senate Republicans for blocking the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s choice to head the new consumer protection agency created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. It was among several recent emails from the CBC, most signed by its chairman, Emanuel Cleaver (D-Ohio), attacking congressional Republicans for blocking the president’s priorities. The email came within days of a White House press call in which senior administration officials pitched a report by the National Economic Council that outlining how a failure to confirm Richard Cordray would tie the hands of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB); and a Wednesday conference call with reporters in which Cleaver and Richmond, Virginia mayor Dwight Jones rallied behind Cordray’s nomination and pitched the “importance of Cordray’s confirmation to protect African American consumers.”
The symmetry of messaging between the White House and the CBC is just one sign of a warmer relationship. Early in the Obama administration, some black caucus members grumbled about a lack of access to the White House; ironic in the wake of the election of the country’s first black president.
The White House downplays any talk of difficult relations with the CBC.
“We have always had a good working relationship with members of the CBC,” Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett told theGrio. “We had a terrific relationship with [Rep.] Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) when she was the chair, and we have a terrific relationship with Chairman Cleaver.”
But Jarrett acknowledged that there have been tense moments between the White House and some members of the CBC in the past. “I think that’s fair to say,” Jarrett said. But she said those tensions grew out of the frustrations the members were hearing from their constituents about the economy. “They were hearing questions in the community about what is the administration was doing” with regard to jobs, Jarrett said. “We needed to give them a more robust briefing, and that has happened now.”
“I think that there are several of the members who were feeling like they weren’t completely up to speed on everything the president is doing to help the African-American community,” Jarrett said. “But I think their comfort level has increased.”
Cleaver called the stories of tension “both perception and reality,” but agreed that the cause was the economy.
“There was no personal animosity between anyone in the CBC and the president,” Cleaver said.
“What you heard and saw [this summer] was some members in the CBC pressing the frustration of their constituents,” Cleaver said. “People point to the tumultuous meeting we had in [at a CBC town hall in] Detroit, during which Congressman Conyers and Congresswoman Waters were very very clear about their desire to have the president give attention to black unemployment, because of its high intolerable level. And we were in Detroit, where unemployment is at 40 percent. So it was required that people speak in emotional tones because the people were angry, and probably still are.”
Source: NewsOne | The Grio