Lewis, a civil rights icon and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, greets Obama on the House floor before the presidentís State of the Union address to Congress. The relationship between Obama and the CBC has been a complicated one.
About one month into her new position leading the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge already has shown a willingness to push the nationís first African-American president aggressively behind the scenes to embrace her groupís priorities.
The Ohio Democrat moved quickly to promote three CBC members for open Cabinet positions, highlighting a long-standing sore spot in the relationship between the CBC and President Barack Obama.
Obama, in turn, dispatched top aide Valerie Jarrett for her first Capitol Hill meeting of the second term to meet with the CBC for a State of the Union preview and listening session with members.
In an interview, Fudge deemed the presidentís speech a success for the group, noting that he addressed voting rights, poverty and immigration.
ďWe were very happy that he talked about our three biggest issues that the caucus deals with,Ē Fudge said. ďSince I have been chair, I have had a good relationship and do have communication with the White House.Ē
Privately, the relationship between the two entities has been complicated for a long time, with members complaining about social snubs and Obamaís reluctance to address the high black unemployment rate head on.
In late 2011, the disagreements culminated in a public spat. But more often, they have been masked. White House officials are sensitive to any conflict being reported in the press, and CBC members often hold their tongues.
ďWhat we have been very careful to avoid is aiding and abetting the haters. The president is the subject of a lot of unfair and awful criticism. We have chosen rather than joining with that crowd, to issue our concern in a different form. Most of it has not been public, and I doubt seriously that there will be a change in the second term,Ē said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, who preceded Fudge as CBC chairman.
The rift over Obamaís Cabinet is a case in point on the sometimes strained relationship between the president and the CBC.
There was some jealousy in Obamaís first term that a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, then-Rep. Hilda L. Solis, D-Calif., was chosen to lead the Labor Department but that no member of the CBC was even vetted for a Cabinet slot. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia was discussed for Agriculture secretary but not formally vetted.
The CBCís letters, however, arenít as much about pushing the particular individuals it is recommending, but part of a broader push for Obama to increase the diversity of his Cabinet ó something his most recent picks have lacked.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.