Paul Ryan Agrees to Meet with Congressional Black Caucus After ‘Inner-City’ Remarks

Caucus members say they were “deeply troubled” by what the lawmaker said.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
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Elahe Izad
March 14, 2014, 7:36 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­an Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an, whose re­marks about in­ner-city poverty were de­scribed by an­oth­er mem­ber of Con­gress as a “thinly veiled ra­cial at­tack,” has ac­cep­ted the in­vit­a­tion of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus to dis­cuss poverty.

CBC Chair­wo­man Mar­cia Fudge and Rep. Gwen Moore sent a let­ter to Ry­an, say­ing they were “deeply troubled” and of­fen­ded by his re­marks on Bill Ben­nett’s in­flu­en­tial Morn­ing in Amer­ica ra­dio show Wed­nes­day about 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.”

Ry­an has since said that he was “in­ar­tic­u­late” in mak­ing those com­ments. “I was not im­plic­at­ing the cul­ture of one com­munity — but of so­ci­ety as a whole. We have al­lowed our so­ci­ety to isol­ate or quar­ant­ine the poor rather than in­teg­rate people in our com­munit­ies.”

Fudge and Moore pushed back against the idea that isol­a­tion is the main cul­prit be­hind poverty, say­ing that the prob­lem is in­stead a lack of re­sources. They in­vited Ry­an to one of the CBC’s weekly meet­ings “to dis­cuss our per­spect­ives on poverty in search of find­ing con­struct­ive com­mon ground.”

A spokes­man said Ry­an ap­pre­ci­ated the in­vit­a­tion. “He has said he would wel­come a pro­duct­ive con­ver­sa­tion on how to bet­ter fight poverty, and he looks for­ward to meet­ing with the CBC in the near fu­ture,” the spokes­man said.

Ry­an has been no­tice­ably fo­cused on poverty lately. He em­barked on a listen­ing tour of strug­gling neigh­bor­hoods in re­cent months and re­leased a re­port last week look­ing back on the War on Poverty. The chair­man also plans to pro­pose changes, through a new budget, to fed­er­al pro­grams in­ten­ded to help the poor.

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