Paul Ryan Met With the Congressional Black Caucus — They Mostly Disagreed.

It’s their first meeting since Ryan’s “inner city” comments.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Budget Committee Chairman, speaks during the American Conservative Union Conference March 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The annual conference is a meeting of politically conservatives Americans.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
April 30, 2014, 12:52 p.m.

The Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus got the meet­ing it wanted with House Budget Chair­man Paul Ry­an, who met with the bulk of the caucus Wed­nes­day in the wake of his “in­ner city” poverty com­ments.

CBC mem­bers had offered the in­vit­a­tion after voicing their of­fense to the com­ments Ry­an made last month on Bill Ben­nett’s in­flu­en­tial Morn­ing in Amer­ica ra­dio show. He spoke of a “tailspin of cul­ture, in our in­ner cit­ies in par­tic­u­lar, of men not work­ing, and just gen­er­a­tions of men not even think­ing about work­ing or learn­ing the value and the cul­ture of work.” One mem­ber called it a “thinly-veiled ra­cial at­tack.” Ry­an later said he was “in­ar­tic­u­late” in mak­ing those com­ments.

Ry­an thanked the CBC for in­vit­ing him to its meet­ing and called it the be­gin­ning of an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion about poverty. “We had an en­ga­ging and pro­duct­ive dis­cus­sion,” he said in a state­ment fol­low­ing the meet­ing.

“The first step to real re­form is a frank con­ver­sa­tion. We need to fig­ure out what works; we need to learn from people who are fight­ing poverty on the front lines,” Ry­an said. “And that con­ver­sa­tion must go both ways. Simply de­fend­ing the status quo or de­mand­ing more of the same is not an an­swer.”

Earli­er in the day, Ry­an held a hear­ing about the gov­ern­ment’s an­ti­poverty pro­grams. He’s also been trav­el­ing the coun­try on a “listen­ing tour” as part of his in­terest in de­vel­op­ing and pro­mot­ing con­ser­vat­ive solu­tions to poverty.

“We had a very re­spect­ful and cor­di­al con­ver­sa­tion,” CBC Chair­wo­man Mar­cia Fudge said. But they agreed on al­most noth­ing, policy-wise. Ry­an’s latest budget, op­posed by CBC mem­bers, trims the budget by more than $5 tril­lion in cuts, and in­cludes steep cuts to pro­grams like Medi­caid and food stamps.

“The only point of agree­ment that we really had is that we both be­lieve we have un­duly isol­ated the poor in this coun­try and we need to find some policies that cor­rect that situ­ation,” Fudge said.

The group mostly dis­cussed the ideo­lo­gic­al and policy dif­fer­ences they have on ap­proaches to poverty. Ry­an and the CBC mem­bers agreed to keep talk­ing, but it’s un­clear what format that con­ver­sa­tion will take.

Ry­an’s pri­or com­ments, which promp­ted the meet­ing in the first place, did come up Wed­nes­day, Fudge said.

“I be­lieve he phrased it in such a way that, some­times people say things and they think they’re say­ing it in a cer­tain way, and oth­er people are hear­ing it dif­fer­ently,” Fudge said. “It wasn’t ne­ces­sar­ily an apo­logy but more to say, ‘Yes I know that I may have mis­s­poke,’ or, ‘I may have been’ — in his words — ‘in­ar­tic­u­late.’”

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