Paul Ryan Meets With Congressional Black Caucus After Poverty Comments

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus reported mixed reactions Wednesday to their meeting with Rep. Paul D. Ryan over comments the Wisconsin Republican made regarding poverty in inner cities that some in the CBC considered "highly offensive."  

CBC Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, told reporters after the meeting that the two sides reached a consensus that poverty affects all communities across the country.  

"Clearly there was some concern about comments that had been made about the culture in which we find this poverty," said Fudge.  "But we have agreed today that it is across the board.  There is no particular place or people who experience poverty at a different rate than others."  

Ryan also told reporters that the meeting was part of an effort to expand the debate surrounding poverty. "I think what we're trying to accomplish here is improving the tone of debate," said Ryan, "so that more people are invited to this debate so that we do a better job of actually getting control of our problems with poverty."  

Fudge invited Ryan to meet with her caucus in March and said that the representatives had "a very cordial, respectful conversation."  

Fudge later said Ryan did not necessarily apologize for his comments, but reiterated that his phrasing was "inarticulate."  Fudge added, "But his policies belie that and basically say that he believes what he said.  He may not just have wanted to have said it in that way." Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., said the meeting left much to be desired. "I don't think any of us were satisfied because he implied that we just will be exploring and establishing a dialogue," said Rangel.  

Rangel clarified that an open dialogue was a positive development, but he said he hopes the two sides can agree to a substantive policy that addresses poverty.  

The New York Democrat said he will look to "see whether we can deal with something a little more constructive toward reaching a solution that could be adopted by a majority — Democrats and Republicans in the House."  

A bipartisan solution to combat poverty faces an steep uphill battle.  The question of how to address poverty strikes at the core of the division between the parties.  

Ryan said one takeaway from the meeting was learning about the CBC's 10-20-30 plan .  Ryan's fellow Wisconsinite, Rep. Gwen Moore, a Democrat, said the plan is a potential point of agreement between Democrats and Republicans.  The plan directs 10 percent of a program's resources to areas where 20 percent or more of the population have lived below the poverty line for the past 30 years.  

"If, in fact, his criticism was that some of these programs are ineffective, we would probably agree that it is really important to target things like job training," Moore said.  

So, the conversation between the CBC and Ryan will continue.  As a result of the meeting, Ryan agreed to hold a hearing with the Budget Committee where the CBC can air their grievances with the budget plan and present its own solutions to combat poverty.  

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