Washington Report

CBC Releases List of Job Creation Priorities–Is that enough?

The Congressional Black Caucus shared with reporters on Friday a letter to President Barack Obama identifying several proposals they believe should be included in a jobs package currently being drafted in the House.

The list included a broad range of issues from direct job creation and training to small business assistance. The one recurring theme was that of the amounts allocated to a particular project or program, at least 10% of that assistance should be targeted to qualified areas of economic hardship. According to the CBC, that means “any census tract or block numbering area where 20% or more of the population is at or below the federal poverty line as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.”

The CBC feels an enhanced sense of urgency about the nation’s high unemployment rates that they and the entire Democratic Caucus fear the White House and the Senate may not share. The House is hoping to get a robust and targeted jobs package passed before year’s end.

CBC Chair Barbara Lee of California and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, chair of the CBC jobs taskforce said they will work closely with Democratic leadership, particularly House Whip James Clyburn, who is black, to ensure their priorities are included in a final bill.

But is that enough?

The CBC’s problem, lamented one Democratic source who asked to not be named, is an ongoing struggle to find more specific ways to influence and shape legislation. The scaled down public option the Blue Dogs fought for and the Stupek amendment pro-lifers successfully inserted in the House healthcare bill are recent examples. Next week the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plans to launch an immigration bill that provides a specific approach to dealing with undocumented immigrants.

“What the CBC has not found a way to do is to promote a tangible legislative proposal as opposed to a laundry list. You have to do that with a very specific policy idea that says take this out and put this in,” the source said. “Until the CBC can do that, it’s going to have limited ability to shape or drive the legislative process.”