President Takes Rare Meeting with Black Caucus President Bush met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday for the first time in two years. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) talks about what was — and was not — said at the meeting.
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President Takes Rare Meeting with Black Caucus

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President Takes Rare Meeting with Black Caucus

President Takes Rare Meeting with Black Caucus

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TONY COX, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Tony Cox.

We'll get to our regular Roundtable in just a moment. But first, yesterday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Bush at the White House. It was their first such meeting in two years and lasted about an hour.

I just spoke with CBC member Artur Davis of Alabama, who told me Katrina was an obvious topic of discussion but there were others, too.

Representative ARTUR DAVIS (Democrat, Alabama): Well there was a lot of time spent on Katrina. There also was a significant amount of time spent on Iraq and the president's budget. Most of these meetings with the president are very similar. There will usually be a group of members at the beginning who are asked to make observations and then the president weigh in. There is not a significant opportunity for real give and take with the president. The meetings were often very structured.

So I think, frankly, I don't know if there was any expectation or anything would come out of the meeting. I do think there is a belief that it's important for the CBC, given that it represents such a large number of Americans, to have a chance to have a dialogue with the president of the United States. And if something, somewhere comes out from that dialogue, it's positive. It's a good thing.

COX: That was going to be my next question. In fact, now that the president is essentially a lame duck and his legislative agenda and yours aren't quite frankly on the same track, why meet with him at all?

Rep. DAVIS: Well, I do think the president has to recognize one thing. Now there are five chairs of committees who are members of the CBC. There are 17 chairs of subcommittees who are members of the CBC. That has not been the case, obviously, during the first six years of the Bush presidency.

So if President Bush has any desire to see any legislative agenda move in the next several years, and one hopes that he does, that will be shaped in a major measure by the chairs of these committees. And these are not in consequential committees. You have Charlie Rangel who runs Ways and Means. You have Bennie Thompson who runs Homeland Security, John Conyers who runs Judiciary.

The reality is that there's an enormous amount of influence that the CBC has on this Congress at the committee and subcommittee level, and that itself makes the CBC relevant.

COX: Final question, along those same lines, Congressman, did the president indicate any expectations that he might have with regard to support from the CBC on his agenda?

Rep. DAVIS: Well, the president is always very forthright in his defense of his policy on Iraq. I certainly think he understands at this point that the CBC is 100 percent opposed to that policy. And I think in the vote that you will see in the House and the Senate of the next two days, you will see close to 60 percent of the Senate and over 60 percent of the House on record opposing the president's policies.

The president has dug in on Iraq. He is more passionate on the subject than any other, and on this issue I think and every single one of my colleagues at the CBC believe that he's fundamentally wrong.

COX: You haven't met with him for two years until this week. Will you meet with him again?

Rep. DAVIS: Well, the pattern apparently has been to meet with him in very two years at the beginning of each Congress. So, I'm not sure there would be an occasion to meet with him. At the beginning of the next Congress obviously we'll have a new president of the United States.

COX: U.S. Congressman Artur Davis represents Alabama's 7th district. Congressman, thank you very much, sir.

Rep. DAVIS: Thank you for having me.

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