The CBC criticized the White House’s most recent budget, decrying cuts to a variety of programs, from home-heating assistance to higher education. More generally, some CBC members have long felt that the Obama White House simply hasn’t welcomed them.
Cleaver downplays the strife, saying the CBC’s role is to agitate — even against a black president. “There has not been one president where they have been sworn in and we have said, ‘Problem solved,’” Cleaver says. “So we have some differences with the president. He understands that. In many ways he appreciates that opposition to some of his proposals, and we think that is healthy.”
And as overt discrimination in public life has diminished, the Congressional Black Caucus has more fully embraced its mission of advocating on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Blacks, after all, make up a disproportionate percentage of those living below the poverty level.
“It’s impossible to single out black people in trying to take care of them,” Rangel says. “Whether you’re talking about workman’s compensation, whether you’re talking about health care ... you can’t have a black bill. We have done more to ease the economic pain of non-black folks than probably any other group down here.”
As the group marks its 40th anniversary, some of its members hope their successes will someday render the CBC obsolete. “If we are around 40 years from today,” Cleaver says, “then we have failed miserably.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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