Politics

At the Corner of Budget Deal and Poverty

Hoyer discussed lessons learned from the past. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“The budget hopefully will be coming up sooner than later,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said Wednesday.  

“Or maybe not,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said, laughing.  

February features the confluence of the budget being released and Black History Month, providing Hoyer and several African-American lawmakers, including Lee, who heads the whip's task force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., to highlight concerns around poverty.  

“I look forward to seeing the budget that is going to be presented, to see whether or not they are consistent with [Speaker Paul D.] Ryan’s objective,” Hoyer said. He is referring to the initiatives the speaker rolled out in January to help low-income families.  

“We’re bracing ourselves for a very mean-spirited budget,” Butterfield said.  

Both Butterfield and Lee said the White House could have done more to prioritize poverty issues, which have become an issue in the Democratic presidential primary between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.  

“I suggested to them very recently, that they come out and say 'we have a national  strategy to reduce poverty in half in 10 years.' They should say that,” Lee said, adding, "The messaging hasn’t been a priority.”  

Lee said she was on public assistance at a point in her life, and it was the only way she and her children were able to lift themselves out of poverty. “Eleven years later, I’m in Congress. I’m myself an example of why a safety net and why opportunities are so important to lift African Americans out of poverty into the middle class.”

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