3:00pm October 4, 2011

8 Reasons Why The CBC and Obama are Beefing


So you would think a bunch of Democrats would be able to work together, right?

Though it is seldom reported on, President Obama has a lot of strong support within the Congressional Black Caucus. Reps. David Scott (D-GA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) vote with the President on almost everything from Libya to the August Debt Deal.

Yet, the friction is palpable.

Though most CBC members consistently support the President, there are the small incidents that have built up over time into bad blood. As a general rule, members of Congress on the Democratic side, both Black and White, have grumbled that President Obama has given the GOP just too much: from the Bush tax cut extension in December 2010 to the debt deal this summer.

Below are 8 reasons the Black Caucus and President Obama have had a somewhat rocky relationship.

1. Dec. 2009 — President Obama phones Rep. John Conyers, the second most senior member of the U.S. House and the most senior member of the CBC, and tells him he  was “demeaning” after Conyers openly criticized the Administration.  Though Conyers was the first member of the CBC to endorse then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) over Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), tension lingers.  Just last month Conyers called for a jobs March on the White House. Conyers called the march off after the President introduced the American Jobs Act.

2. 2007-2008 — Many CBC Members Endorse Hillary Clinton. Even though most members of the CBC endorsed then-Sen. Obama for President, the widespread perception is that most supported then-Sen. Clinton.  Future Obama supporters cited their long-standing relationship with the Clintons.  They included:  Reps. John Lewis (D-GA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Charlie Rangel (D-NY), the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), then Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Al Green (D-TX).  Members who endorsed Barack Obama early in the process included: Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Lacy Clay (D-MO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Donna Christensen (D-USVI), David Scott (D-GA), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

Some members endorsed no one and stayed quiet (Rep. Jim Clyburn and Eleanor Norton) until the primary season was pretty much over.  In the end of course, all endorsed Obama.  Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) first endorsed their North Carolina homeboy John Edwards before switching to Obama along with Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).  All of the New York members initially endorsed Hillary Clinton.  But, you can’t get too mad at them: state comes first.

3. May 2009 — White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett calls Rep. Keith Ellison and pushes him to support the President on funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. The conversation did not go well.  The Jarrett call was followed by a call from the President himself who inquired why Ellison was giving Jarrett “a hard time.” Though the calls were not the end of the world, the handling of Ellison became the focus of internal CBC ire a year before it got into the press.

4. December 2009 — Ten CBC members on House Financial Services rebel.  It took a while to figure out what this was about after the 10 members involved formed a pact of silence, refusing to speak with reporters.  It was later learned that 10 members of the CBC held up the legislative process and brought a markup to a halt, which prompted meetings with then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner over their issues on a major financial reform bill (Dodd-Frank). The ten CBC members were fighting for $40 billion in Dodd-Frank.  The White House was against it.  The CBC’s main focus was: regulation of predatory lenders; assisting Black-owned banks with access to capital; and making sure money from TARP went to minority lending institutions.  ”Our communities were targeted by predatory lenders, 55% of loans made in 2005 to African Americans were subprime as compared to 17% for whites. In addition, 1 in 10 African American homeowners are expected to go into foreclosure, compared to 1 in 25 Whites…,”  the group said in a statement at the time.

5.  July 2010 — President Obama tosses Charlie Rangel Over the Side. During an interview with CBS News, President Obama says,”I’m sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity,” and “he’s at the end of his career,” of well-liked ethics embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel.  Rangel, who started in Congress when Obama was 11, was not happy.  “Frankly, he has not been around long enough to determine what my dignity is, for the next two years, I will be more likely to protect his dignity,” Rangel said.  But, it seemed all good, at least politically, when the President gave Rangel a big solid at the National Action Network Gala dinner the following year.

6. August 2011 — While on the CBC’s five city jobs tour, Rep. Maxine Waters tells and audience in Detroit regarding the President: ”If we go after the president too hard, you’re going after us. When you tell us it’s all right and you unleash us and you’re ready to have this conversation, we’re ready to have the conversation.”

7.  CBC Asks President Obama for 5 Things. Gets Zip (so far…). This year, the CBC has met with President Obama twice and White House Chief of staff Bill Daley once. They asked for the same 5 things in every meeting. 1. A push for Rep. Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan to assist communities with systemic and persistent poverty.  2. A redistricting task force; 3. Support and money for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); 4. Support for Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill H.R. 589, 14 more weeks of unemployment insurance for 99ers; and 5. NIH funding and attention on health disparities.

8. May 2010 and May 2011 — CBC Push for Summer Youth Jobs Two Summers in a Row, White House Silent. Yes: In the American Jobs Act the President has a summer jobs initiative.  What caused friction before that was the two consecutive summer’s before when the CBC asked for summer jobs funding and was ignored.  Back in 2009, when Rep. Barbara Lee was the CBC Chair, the CBC had been pushing for summer jobs money.  Not only were they ignored by Sen. Harry Reid, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell — but by the White House, as well. Passing the health care reform bill took up much of the time from the summer of 2009 to March 2010.  Members, however, are happy to see the summer jobs language in the American Jobs Act.


About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an opinion journalist, comms expert and political analyst focused on justice reform policy. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke was a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, Hardball and Up on MSNBC, WVON in Chicago, WURD in Philadelphia and WOL and WHUR in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Managing Editor of Politic365 and a contributing writer for TheRoot and NBC Black where she writes opinion and analysis. Additionally, Ms. Burke has been a contract photographer for Associated Press since 2004. She has authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics publisher Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Here e-mail is: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



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  1. Dino

    Obama (Obozo) is a bleeping DISGRACE!!

    The 99's have needed help since March 2010. Obozo knows
    this. He should be impeached!!

    But that's OK – come next Presidential election he is GONE !!

    • SouthernGirl2

      I wouldn't hold my breath on it, Bozo! You are a disgrace! I can see you've had no home training. Trash!

    • Dailyfare

      And your alternative is what? Has to be a viable alternative that progressives/99ers are ready to spend $1B on. That's reality. That's what it's going to take to win the 2012 election against the GOP. Who you got?

    • caz222

      it's congress playing games here ,I have been a 99er for over 2 years , seeing congress playing there games all the time

  2. mgpthoc

    Just goes to show, these people are not about "color." They are about feeding at the federal trough instead of getting their supporters to do for themselves.

  3. porkEy the pig

    why the president nver mention the word 99ers are try to support them

  4. [...] votes to support it. It may not be the exact plan offered by the president, but I think he, …Joint Center TechPolitic365los 2.343 artículos [...]

  5. [...] the White House. Conyers called the march off after the President introduced the American Jobs Act.Read more… var linkwithin_site_id = 219366; var linkwithin_div_class = "linkwithin_hook"; You can follow [...]

  6. [...] elected officials, many of whom said that he was not “Black enough” to win them over. After 4 years of tension with the Congressional Black Caucus, a record of contravening Black voters’ values on issues [...]

  7. [...] elected officials, many of whom said that he was not “Black enough” to win them over. After 4 years of tension with the Congressional Black Caucus, a record of contravening Black voters’ values on issues [...]

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