Powell to Visit CBC on Wednesday

Posted May 3, 2004 at 6:27pm

Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet privately with the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday, a rare visit suggesting the Bush administration is working to temper Congressional criticism of its foreign policy.

Powell, who last visited the CBC in 2001, requested the meeting with the 39-member caucus to discuss his recent trip to Haiti, but the CBC asked the session be expanded to a broader international agenda. The secretary’s visit comes on the heels of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s trip to Capitol Hill last week to discuss the Iraqi conflict with the entire House Democratic Caucus.

A spokesman for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the CBC chairman, said members expect the session to touch on a range of issues including U.S. relations with the United Nations, a possible supplemental appropriations bill to cover ongoing costs in Iraq, the growing AIDS epidemic in Africa and the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization and G-8 summits in June.

“Mr. Cummings welcomes Mr. Powell’s visit and looks forward to a productive and substantive dialogue,” said Paul Brathwaite, executive director of the CBC.

Brathwaite said Powell’s meeting stems in part from a CBC trip to the White House in February in which the caucus members personally voiced concerns about Bush’s handling of the ouster of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. The turmoil in Haiti has been one of the CBC’s major concerns in recent months.

“We’ve had good conversations with Secretary Powell and National Security Adviser Rice subsequent to the White House meeting in early February,” Brathwaite said. “This is a continuation of that dialogue.”

Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), the CBC’s most senior member on the International Relations Committee, said as part of those conversations CBC members want to continue talking to Powell about U.S. policy in Haiti, as well as other parts of the Caribbean, Sudan, Liberia and areas in South and Central America.

Payne said CBC members have far-reaching questions about the international landscape, and want answers from Powell about how the administration is handling race-related troubles in those areas.

“I think Secretary Powell respects the caucus and its importance and perhaps he has something he wants to convey to us,” Payne said. “As I mentioned, we’ve had very little contact between this administration and the CBC in general, so maybe he felt he needed to take the initiative to bring us some points.”

The CBC has been anything but quiet in recent months about Bush’s handling of international affairs.

The group not only spoke out loudly against the administration earlier this year for mismanaging the Haiti crisis, but also has been among the most outspoken of the Democrats in criticizing Bush’s handling of the ongoing Iraqi conflict.