Today is 776…. The last time there as a group meeting between the Preisdent and the Congressional Black Caucus was May 12, 2011. They are now scheduled to meet on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at the White House — 790 days after their last meeting. The President met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on January 25, 2013. At that meeting, the President told the CHC members immigration was “his top legislative priority.” Today, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill and sent it to the House for consideration.
The July 9 meeting between the President and the Black Caucus will be the first with Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) as Chair. Fudge has already displayed an assertive posture since becoming the 23rd Chair of the CBC in January 2013. Fudge wrote the President on March 11, urging him to nominate more African Americans to his cabinet. The President named Anthony Foxx to be Secretary of Transportation on April 29. Foxx was confirmed yesterday by the Senate. President Obama also nominated Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) on May 1, to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Though the position is not cabinet-level, it is a job that could have major disproportionate impact on Black communities hit hard by the subprime mortgage crisis.
During the President’s first term, many in his administration said they would focus on issues disproportionately impacting African Americans during the President’s second term. In the first six months of his second term, the President has focused much of his attention on three issues: immigration, gun control and climate change.
On February 22, the President met with a group of Black leaders at the White House. The readout from that day in part read: “The President reiterated his commitment to supporting policies that will directly impact those hardest hit by the economic crisis by making sure that America is a magnet for jobs, increasing access to job training programs, partnering with high-poverty communities to help them rebuild, and encouraging companies to invest in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”
But statistics for African Americans on issues effected by federal policy have steadily gotten worse since the President has taken office. The Black unemployment rate during Obama’s presidency has never fallen below 13.2%. During President Bush’s eight years, the Black unemployment rate was never over 12.1% and was 7.7% in 2001 and 2007. The number of prisoners in federal prison has increased as has the budget requests by the Administration for federal prisons. For the last two fiscal years, the Obama Administration has increased the federal prison budget. On education, a change in the loan requirements for Parent PLUS loans has costs HBCUs $160 million. The Chair of President Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hampton President Dr. William Harvey, said the HBCU situation is the “worst he’s seen in 35 years.” In three days, St. Paul’s College in Virginia will close after 125 years.
Members of the CBC have been working with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan since late last year on a fix to the Parent PLUS problem. A specific agenda for the upcoming July 9 meeting is unknown.