The long-simmering family feud between the Congressional Black Caucus and the first African-American president burst into the open on Wednesday, with members boycotting a financial overhaul vote as a warning shot at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The 43-member caucus — which included Illinois Sen. Barack Obama from 2004 to 2008 — has chafed against President Obama and his top aides since the Inauguration, complaining that the White House takes it for granted and plays favorites with conservative Blue Dog Democrats.
Ten CBC members decided to boycott the House Financial Services Committee vote en masse after a tumultuous morning meeting at the Capitol between Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel failed to yield a deal, according to people familiar with the meeting.
The bill passed easily, but Waters suggested the CBC’s 43 members could vote with the GOP to scuttle a variety of Democratic bills if Obama and Emanuel don’t address what she thinks is a lack of understanding of the CBC’s wide-ranging goals of reducing urban unemployment, home foreclosures and bank failures.
“I think that it is important for us to educate those people around [Obama],” Waters told reporters. “We’ve got to get his people educated and moving. We have not brought these issues to him personally — it is important first to educate those people around him so they understand.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), who recently accused Obama of bowing down to the GOP on health care reform, was more pointed, shouting “Yes!” when asked if he was disappointed with Obama’s level of attentiveness to African-Americans’ needs.
He added that he had an extensive list of issues with the president — a list he said was too long to disgorge in a hallway conversation with a reporter.