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CAPAC Still Waiting for an Obama Meeting

Asian-American House Members are frustrated that President Barack Obama has never formally hosted their caucus at the White House, and they plan to let him know.

Rep. Mike Honda, chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said the group plans to complain at an end-of-the-month meeting at the White House with Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the first such meeting for the caucus.

At issue is the fact that Obama has hosted the other two groups that make up the Congressional Tri-Caucus but has so far overlooked CAPAC, Honda said.

“We’re going to let Daley know that’s not a cool thing,” the California Democrat said. “What are we, chopped liver?”

The president convened with the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House for the first time in May to talk job creation, and he has huddled several times with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss immigration, most recently in May.

But immigration policy affects Asians  too, said one Congressional staffer who handles Asian issues, and they would like the opportunity to discuss the subject with Obama.

“When people think of immigration, they don’t necessarily understand how it affects Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders,” the staffer said.

The group also wants to encourage Obama to continue appointing Asian-Americans and Pacific-Americans to the judiciary. Obama has doubled their ranks among federal judges, but they represent 1.7 percent of the judiciary, the staffer said.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye contended that Obama has been responsive to the Asian-American community, pointing specifically to his reauthorization of the White House Initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which was created under President Bill Clinton and continued under President George W. Bush and aims to increase the group’s participation in federal programs.

“The President is proud of his accomplishments that have benefited the [Asian American Pacific Islander] community, and looks forward to continuing to make progress,” Shin Inouye said in a statement. “The White House routinely talks with Members of Congress, including the members of the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus. In addition, the White House has made senior Administration officials readily available for meetings and dialogue with the Caucus on a range of issues from education to small business lending and more — and will continue to do so.”

CAPAC’ Chairwoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) struck a more diplomatic tone, saying she is happy to meet with Daley.

She said in a statement that the president “has made a conscious effort to include the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” calling attention to the initiative and Obama’s appointment of three Asian-American Cabinet secretaries: Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Gary Locke, Obama’s first Commerce secretary and pick to be ambassador to China.

“There’s still a great deal of work to be done, and CAPAC’s upcoming meeting with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley will be a major step forward in these efforts,” Rep. Chu said. “I look forward to working together with the President and his staff on issues that will improve the lives of the AAPI community.”

Of the three minority groups that make up the Tri-Caucus, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are the least-represented in Congress.

There are 13 Members of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in Congress this year, including the Delegates and two Senators — a figure that ties the 111th Congress for the most ever, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The group has no shortage of power amid its ranks, with Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who also serves as President Pro Tem.

CAPAC is also the smallest of the three Congressional minority caucuses, with 15 members, including two Senators and some Members with no Asian ancestry. The group also counts 16 associate members, none of whom are of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.

The CBC, on the other hand, includes 43 members, while the CHC has 21 members.

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