Following four years of major policy disagreements with the White House, the Congressional Black Caucus is set to hold a rare meeting with President Bush today.
Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), the CBC’s newly elected chairman, said Tuesday that he is going into the meeting hopeful that Bush will consider the group’s broad agenda and be willing to offer initiatives of his own that seek to enhance opportunities for black Americans, from education to jobs to health care.
Watt said the group is bringing Bush one central agenda item: to ensure that disparities between white and black Americans are lessened, and that black Americans have the chance to “live out the American dream.”
“I guarantee you, he will hear that so much tomorrow,” Watt said.
The 43-member CBC clashed mightily with Bush last Congress on such topics as the budget, education and the war in Iraq.
The CBC chairman said the timing of the meeting couldn’t be better, given the new Congress and the beginning of Bush’s second term.
Watt also said CBC members aren’t going to the White House to listen to Bush and hear about his agenda. Rather, he said, they are going with the expectation that the president will listen to their goals and legislative priorities.
Watt added that that the CBC will deem the meeting a success if the president is receptive to its concerns, and follows up by responding to those issues in his State of the Union address and in his budget recommendations to the 109th Congress. “There are plenty of opportunities to judge,” Watt said.