WASHINGTON (AP) — The Congressional Black Caucus is expressing no hard feelings toward President Barack Obama despite a two-year gap in meetings with the nation’s first African-American president.
The president invited the 43-member caucus to the White House on Tuesday for a 90-minute private discussion, their first since May 2011.
The caucus’ chairwoman, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, said the long wait didn’t come up during the meeting. She said she was pleased that the lines of communication have been opened and predicted broader and deeper discussions in the future.
Fudge had sharply criticized Obama earlier this year for a lack of diversity in his second-term Cabinet. But she said she thanked him Tuesday for nominating two black men to prominent posts — Anthony Foxx as transportation secretary and Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Immigration also came up in the Black Caucus meeting, where members pushed Obama to ensure that immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are included in the legislation. Obama also planned to meet Wednesday with the 26-member Congressional Hispanic Caucus on their shared goal of passing an immigration overhaul bill in the House.
The group also strategized with the president about ways to strengthen minority voting rights now that the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
“The president reaffirmed his commitment to addressing voter discrimination through the Department of Justice and expressed his interested in working with Congress to pass legislation to ensure that every American who is eligible to vote has access to the polls,” the White House said in a statement.
Youth employment, efforts to reduce gun violence, and anti-poverty programs were also discussed, the White House said.
Fudge said the president also assured the caucus that he would work to restore the low interest rate on some student loans. The rate doubled last week amid a fight with congressional Republicans about the best formula for setting rates.