Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) rejected an offer from the White House to meet with all 49 members of the caucus, citing steps that the Trump Administration has taken, “that will affirmatively hurt Black communities.”
In a letter addressed to President Trump, Richmond wrote that, “Your Administration has yet to provide a response to the policies we presented. Additionally, your Administration has not followed through on a pledge you made to us to facilitate meetings with relevant Cabinet officials.”
The letter also noted that roughly 60 percent of the proposed cuts in Trump’s budget plan will slash programs that serve the most vulnerable Americans.
“For example, you propose a $4 billion cut to Pell Grants that help low-income college students pay their tuition,” the letter said. “You also proposed the complete elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps seniors and other helpless populations heat their homes in the winter and cool them in the summer.”
The letter continued: “[Attorney General Jeff Sessions] issued guidance to federal prosecutors to accelerate the failed war on drugs that will continue to wreck the Black community and exacerbate our nation’s shameful scourge of mass incarceration. Attorney General Sessions has also explicitly stated his unwillingness to utilize consent decrees to protect the civil rights of Americans and has called for an agency-wide review of these agreements. These shortsighted decisions represent willful ignorance by relying on ideology instead of data and compassion.”
The letter also said that some Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have lost funding through TRIO programs under Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ leadership.
Although, Richmond speaks for the entire caucus, some CBC members are divided on the next move. In the letter, Richmond suggested that Trump reach out to individual CBC members. Some CBC members would like a smaller group to meet with Trump. Others, such as Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told the NNPA Newswire that “it’s up to the individual member” when asked about the invite.
Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.), who is a freshman member to the United States Congress, but a veteran lawmaker from Florida, spoke with NNPA Newswire in June and said that he wants to meet with Trump.
“I talked to Omarosa [Manigault] about the opportunity to meet with [President Trump] and talk about some issues that are very important to me in Florida,” said Lawson. “I think it’s important to meet. I might not agree with his issues and his politics but we’re here to work. This is someone who is going to be here for the next three and a half years. You have to work with him.”
The first meeting between members of the CBC and President Trump took place on March 22. At that time, seven members of the CBC met with the president and Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting included: Rep. Richmond along with Reps. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Anthony Brown (D-Ma) and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.).
A substantive meeting between the president and the entire CBC would be a long shot.
“Given the lack of response to any of the many concerns we have raised with you and your Administration, we decline your invitation for all 49 members of the Congressional Black Caucus to meet with you,” wrote Richmond. “The CBC, and the millions of people we represent, have a lot to lose under your Administration. I fail to see how a social gathering would benefit the policies we advocate for.”
Lauren Victoria Burke, Contributor
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist who analyses politics and justice reform. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke has also been 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 weekly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin. She has also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC. She is also a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TheRoot.com
Ms. Burke has also authored three books of photography including two on President Obama’s 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics creator 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.