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.”
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.