Back to Katrina: Black Caucus leaders discuss needs with Bush

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

A meeting between Congressional Black Caucus leaders and President George W. Bush at the White House Thursday was “uneventful,” said Congressman Artur Davis, D-Birmingham.

Even still, “I always enjoy being at the White House. It’s a great honor,” he said.

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Davis said about 40 members of the caucus were present at the meeting, where a few opening statements were made.

“Today, it was more of the president giving answers to a few questions,” he said.

When asked if the president seemed to be listening to the concerns of caucus members, Davis said, “he’s certainly not listening on the question of Iraq. He’s completely resistant to public opinion. He remains unmoved.”

Davis has asserted that the American people are the ones being asked to make the sacrifice. So if the American people no longer support the effort, “that should be considered.”

Other issues that came up included the budget and Katrina.

“The president is always gracious,” Davis said. “And the congressmen were respectful to the president.”

The meeting lasted about an hour, with caucus leaders urging the president to refocus federal efforts on Hurricane Katrina cleanup.

Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., said lawmakers asked Bush to waive the local match, usually 10 percent, that governments pay in receiving federal aid, as has been done in past disasters.

They also expressed concern about what they see as the federal government’s focus on long-term housing redevelopment plans as opposed to more immediate needs.

Members of the 43-member caucus, including Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., called it a “cordial conversation.”

Bush made no specific commitments, they said. But, pointing to past cooperation on issues such as renewing the Voting Rights Act last year, they said they hope to continue working with Bush this year.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., introduced legislation Thursday that would require the federal government to drop local matching requirements in the hurricane recovery.

“The proof in the pudding is what we do afterward together,” Kilpatrick said.

The lawmakers said they also voiced opposition to the Iraq war and discussed President Bush’s recently proposed budget.

Davis said Bush is more engaged and communicative in private settings than he sometimes appears in press conferences or formal speeches.

“It was a good, substantive conversation,” Davis said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.