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99ers/Jobless Benefits Comes Up (Again) During CBC Meeting with Obama

White House photo shows Obama talking, but CBC members were heard 85% of the time

The unemployed, “are begging for help and I think that the Congressional Black Caucus and the president are both interested in trying to come up with some means of addressing that and doing it rather quickly,” said CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver.

The good news for 99ers: The President mentioned he wants to possibly attach the 99ers money to some other big piece of legislation somehow… which piece, how and when is unclear… The Congressional Black Caucus continues to bring the issue of unemployment benefits to the table. In this case the big table in the State Dinning room at the White House.  Were it not for the persistence of Rep. Barbara Lee the issue would never be discussed in the White House. Much like so many other issues (high incarceration, programs for the poor, and so on) they focus on — almost no one else in Congress — is doing so.

May 12: CBCers at White House yesterday after the meeting

The bad news for 99ers: The President does not seem deeply motivated to to actively support unemployment benefits in general terms.  He understands that getting legislation through Congress without a trick play will be difficult. The White House also seems to bothered by the idea of bringing “unemployment” up while at the same time arguing that “jobs are being added and things are “slowly improving.” As 2012 approaches, the White House would seem more interested in PR and pandering to certain vote blocks than in “doing the right thing.” The “doing the right thing” argument has been brought up as a motivating reason to support H.R. 589 by several CBC members. The issue of stimulating the economy has also been mentioned. Problem is: Obama and his political strategists are assuming the black vote is theirs 24/7 no matter what.  With that said, why act on initiatives being pushed by black representatives in Congress? Where is the leverage? White House efforts to placate voting blocks going into 2012 can clearly be seen in the non stop focus over the last month on immigration and The Dream Act — two issues important to the Hispanic community.  Just yesterday, the President three Hispanic related events on his schedule. Hispanics gave President Obam a low approval rating in a recent poll and their vote is important in 2012.

When the issue is discussed it happens because it is pushed on him rather than the other way around. Just as a backgrounder on the CBC/Obama meeting in general: The CBC members controlled 94% of the discussion. They, led by Chair Emanuel Cleaver, came up with the policy suggestions and the topics of discussion.  The President, in his usual listening posture, made a few suggestions and threw out a few “my staff will followup…” statements here and there.