President Barack Obama has agreed in principle to hold the first face-to-face meeting with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus after the group’s ex-chairman complained that the president has so far overlooked them.
In a July 27 meeting at the White House — the first of its kind for the caucus — senior administration staffers assured CAPAC that the president will soon host them. A date has not yet been set for the get-together.
Roll Call first reported last month that in the runup to the meeting, the group’s former chairman, Rep. Mike Honda, said he and others planned to let the administration know that they are frustrated with Obama’s failure to meet with the group.
“What are we, chopped liver?” the California Democrat said at the time.
But in the meeting, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu sought to assure the group that it is instead liver pâté.
“The White House did commit to scheduling a meeting between CAPAC and the President and we are working to fulfill that commitment,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in an email.
At issue was the fact that Obama has hosted the other two groups that make up the Congressional Tri-Caucus but has so far overlooked CAPAC.
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.
Three of the Members who met with White House staff are also in the CBC: Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Al Green (Texas) and Hansen Clarke (Mich.). Other members to attend were Democratic Dels. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), Eni Faleomavaega (American Samoa) and Gregorio Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands).
Embattled Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.), a member of the caucus who has announced his resignation after he was alleged to have had an unwanted sexual encounter with a teenager, did not attend.
“Our first official meeting between CAPAC and the White House was productive, historic and an important precursor to our meeting with President Obama,” CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “CAPAC greatly appreciates the President’s commitment to ensuring that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a voice at the table, and we look forward to working with the White House to address our community’s significant unmet needs.”
In the hourlong meeting, the group discussed issues such as the relatively small number of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders on the federal judiciary, the future of the White House initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders and how the immigration system affects the community.
“I am pleased that this long-awaited meeting with White House senior officials has finally occurred,” Honda said in a statement. “I am hopeful that this meeting will act as the start of a strong dialogue on immigration between the White House and our nation’s Asian American Pacific Islander communities.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.