RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus head to the White House today. Back in January, they sent then-President-elect Donald Trump a letter asking for a meeting. They say they never heard anything back until mid-February when President Trump was asked this question by reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks during a White House press conference.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
APRIL RYAN: Are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda - your inner-city agenda as well as...
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Am I going to include who?
RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus...
TRUMP: Well, I would. I'll tell you what. Do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?
MARTIN: April Ryan may not have been instrumental in setting up this meeting, but it is happening later today. And Democratic Representative Karen Bass will be there. She's a vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. I asked her what the CBC is looking to get out of this afternoon's gathering.
KAREN BASS: Well, the agenda is quite broad. But I would say that our main point is to answer the question that Trump raised during the campaign, which is - what do you have to lose? If you recall, he asked that to the African-American population. And we want to share with him what we believe we do have to lose. And I think the biggest expression of that is the budget that he put forward, which would be very, very damaging to the African-American population, and then of course the effort that he is spearheading with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. So in regard to - what do we have to lose? - quite a bit.
MARTIN: How do you plan on approaching this meeting? I mean, this is obviously something that is important to get right as you all kind of get to know one another and develop some trust. Are you going in feeling combative? Are you going in...
BASS: No. No, no.
MARTIN: ...Thinking that you need to find common ground?
BASS: Well, we certainly hope to find common ground. And we plan to provide the president with a great deal of documentation, some documentation that talks about the Congressional Black Caucus - who we are, where we represent and issues that are important to the African-American community.
MARTIN: A few weeks ago we spoke with Javier Palomarez. He's the president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And it was interesting because he was very critical of Donald Trump on the campaign trail. He is now a member of President Trump's national diversity coalition. And he talked with us about the value of making incremental progress with President Trump, that, from his perspective, he's not going to get Donald Trump to drop the idea of building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. But he's been able to get him to kind of scale back on the rhetoric and the potential policies around deporting Dreamers.
Are you thinking about it that way, looking for an opening you can use to something? You talked about the budget or health care.
BASS: Well, I think that's a fair description. But anyone who is a member of Congress or in, frankly, any elected office understands that the nature of the beast is incremental change. And so we do come at it from that perspective. But we will give him a wide list of policy areas from which he can choose. And on some of those areas, we hope to strike an accord. And on others, well, we might not.
MARTIN: Where do you think you might find common ground?
BASS: Well, there might be common ground on some aspects of health care. You know that there was a meeting that took place earlier with a Representative Cummings in regard to prescription drugs. Perhaps in education - he met with the historically black colleges' presidents. Unfortunately, in that meeting, he signed an executive order, but the executive order did not include any resources. And so perhaps he would be open to increasing the funding. Maybe if he understands the impact of some of the cuts that he's proposing, maybe he would reconsider them.
MARTIN: Is this the first of a series of meetings, do you think? Are there more planned at this point?
BASS: No, there are no other meetings planned. But we will wait and see. This is a first step. We will see what happens afterwards. We also hope to educate the president to understand that some of the statements that he's made, some of the ways he's depicted the African-American community is actually very hurtful and, truthfully, very inaccurate. And so we hope that we can get him to understand that as well because I think, in terms of establishing trust and a working relationship, it's very helpful if one is not insulting and offensive when you're describing the very people that you are meeting with.
MARTIN: Congress member Karen Bass represents California's 37th District. She's also the second vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is meeting with President Donald Trump today.
Thanks so much for your time.
BASS: Thank you.
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