Black Caucus, White House Rift Widens

Damian Paletta, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2009

The rift over economic policy between the Obama administration and the Congressional Black Caucus appeared to widen on Wednesday, when a meeting between several lawmakers and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel ended without an agreement and the lawmakers refused to attend a morning committee vote to overhaul financial rules.

The group’s effort to block a vote on the financial regulations could have derailed a major White House priority. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) narrowly managed to pass the bill without the panel’s 10 Congressional Black Caucus members.

Mr. Frank said he spoke Tuesday evening with Mr. Emanuel and Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), who has been leading talks for the CBC, and wasn’t sure whether a deal could be worked out by Wednesday morning. When none of the CBC members showed up for the vote, it became clear a deal never materialized.

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Republicans came just four votes short of blocking the financial overhaul measure, which would give the government the power to take over and break up faltering financial companies. If it became clear Rep. Frank didn’t have the votes, he could have pulled the bill at the last second and waited until he had the votes. If the CBC members had shown up and voted against the bill, they likely could have killed it.

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Rep. Frank’s ability to pass the bill without any CBC support could cost the CBC leverage as it negotiates with the White House. Another issue clouding their negotiations is that many officials aren’t even sure what exactly it is CBC members want the White House to offer them.

Some Capitol Hill aides said CBC members have argued that minority-owned institutions should be allowed to participate in more government programs. Others have said there is frustration that the White House isn’t doing more to reverse unemployment.

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