WASHINGTON – Maryland lawmakers who joined the Congressional Black Caucus for a meeting with President Bush on Wednesday said the president was “cordial and receptive” but noncommittal to the group’s proposals.
“He made no hard commitments,” said Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, outside the White House after the hour-long meeting.
But Wynn said he had not carried high expectations into the meeting, at which caucus members discussed their ideas for improving the quality of life of African Americans.
It was the first meeting in four years between the caucus and the president. Caucus members took the opportunity Wednesday to present their agenda for reducing racial gaps in education, health care, housing and employment, as well as increasing opportunities for minority business.
Caucus Chairman Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., said Bush had agreed to take their agenda “under advisement.” The president’s upcoming State of the Union address and his proposed budget for fiscal 2006 will provide better opportunities to evaluate Bush’s support for their agenda, Watt said.
“More important is what happens after today,” said Watt, who will adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
He said caucus members remain dedicated to closing “disparities between African Americans and mainstream society,” and that they will work with Republicans or Democrats to achieve that goal.
White House officials did not respond to calls seeking comment on the meeting Wednesday evening.
For now, “the jury is still out,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore.
Cummings’ remarks were remarkably similar to his comments four years ago, when caucus members and the president first met after Bush won a very narrow minority of black votes in the disputed 2000 election. It was the last time they met before Wednesday.
While calling Bush a “good listener,” Cummings said Wednesday that the president “didn’t do a lot of reacting” and “seemed reluctant to commit to future meetings.”
“We laid out our agenda quite well,” said Cummings, the former chairman of the caucus. “It’s hard to say what will happen.”
But Wynn held out optimism.
“This is an opening act to begin the dialogue,” Wynn said. “Bush is in the legacy-building business. He wants to say he has improved relations with the African-American community.”
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