On June 21, the Congressional Black Caucus formally declined an offer from the Trump Administration to meet for the second time in less than six months.
That’s a huge change. When President Obama was in office the Caucus waited over 700 days for a meeting. President Obama didn’t meet at all with the CBC during 2012 and 2016. He also met more with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It’s ironic to see the same Congressional Black Caucus who rarely met with President Obama declare it won’t meet at all with President Trump. The easiest cheapest part of politics is talking.
A June 9 invitation for a second meeting this year came via Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault. Many members were not happy Manigault referred to herself as “The Honorable” in her invite letters to the 49 members of the Caucus. “The Honorable” is used for heads of state and elected officials. But the question is, with all the pressing issues in African American communities: Who cares?
The job of U.S. Representatives is to represent 700,000 people on the federal level. It is often the case that the President and executive branch officials elected officials ignore the letters and requests of members of Congress. But not talking at all should never be an option for any U.S. Representative. By declining to even meet with President Trump the Black Caucus is announcing publicly they’re not even going to try. We hear politicians complain endlessly about the state of partisanship in today’s politics but what could be more partisan than declaring you’re not talking at all?
“It has become abundantly clear that a conversation with the entire Caucus would not be entirely productive, given the actions taken by your Administration since our first meeting,” a letter from CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond read.
At a March 22 meeting with President Trump and Vice President Pence, seven members of the Black Caucus presented a 130-page policy document the CBC now says the White House is ignoring. If President Trump ignored that document (which should be no surprise…) then why not have a second meeting and tell Trump that (and so much more…) right to his face?
“Based on actions taken by you and your administration since that meeting, it appears that our concerns, and your stated receptiveness to them, fell on deaf ears,” the CBC’s letter continued wrote.
No kidding. Not-so-breaking-news: There’s a Republican in The White House. If the CBC was basing meetings on whether a President was excited about the Black agenda they’d never meet with a President. The CBC was founded because a President, Richard Nixon, ignored their agenda.
Even when there was a Democrat in the White House over the last eight years there was plenty that fell on “deaf ears.” Those policies included Parent PLUS Loans and other policies impacting HBCUs and money and support for summer jobs. When President Clinton was in office there were 12 CBC members who were not happy with him over the Clinton Crime Bill. They met with him. When President Jimmy Carter was in office, the Black Caucus banned him from their annual dinner because of a disagreement after a meeting at the White House.
There’s no question Donald Trump’s administration is aggressively in disagreement with what the Black Caucus outlined in their 130-page policy document. Everyone knew that would be the case on Wednesday, November 9, 2016.
There are at least four members of the CBC who wish to meet with President Trump. They include Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL) and David Scott (D-GA), on HBCUs. Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) met with President Trump to push for lower prescription drug prices on March 8. His request was ignored. But Cummings used the visit to also confront Trump on racism and how he speaks about Black communities — something Cummings told reporters after the meeting in the White House driveway. Cummings also requested that no photos be taken of the meetings and the White House agreed.
On June 15, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) attended a White House event on apprenticeship programs, a popular topic Democrats and Republicans agree on with regard to funding. The President even shook his hand and there were photos. Did the world end? No.
Our politics is already dysfunctional and unproductive enough. It’s pretty obvious that the Trump Administration is not conventional. All that is well known. The bottom line is: The CBC can’t control what President Trump does. What is within their control is how they communicate with him and he public on the issues impacting their constituents.