Beltway Confidential

Senior Democratic Whip says Congressional Black Caucus does not support Obama on Syria

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Congressional Black Caucus members hesitate to support President Obama's call for a military strike on Syria because of their constituents ongoing disappointment with his economic policies with respect to the African American community, according to a senior House Democratic Whip.

"There are a few who are supportive of having a targeted strike, and there are many more members who are indifferent, and then there are others who are outright against against the strike," Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., told WTLC AM's Amos Brown on Wednesday when asked to describe the mood of the CBC.

"I'm not convinced that military action in the manner sought by the administration is in America's best interest," the CBC member also said, explaining that he would prefer that regional allies put pressure on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's regime.

Carson attributed Obama's difficulty in rallying CBC votes to frustration with his domestic agenda as it pertains to the black community.

"You know the congressional black caucus has pushed over the past several years for targeted dollars going to the African American community going to summer jobs programs; targeted dollars from the federal government in terms of helping to empower small businesses, women-owned businesses, and minority-owned business; targeted dollars that will help bolster our economy; targeted dollars that will help improve the health of our public school systems," Carson said.

The sentiment is not a new one. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., admitted that the CBC was "getting tired" of Obama's failure to deliver economic benefits for the black community.

"The unemployment is unconscionable," she said during a CBC town hall in Detroit in 2011. "We don't know what the strategy is. We don't know why on this trip that he's in the United States now, he's not in any black community. We don't know that."

Waters eventually praised the jobs proposal Obama outlined in September of 2011 — "as a matter of fact we can see our hand print all over this proposal," she said — but the stimulus package never passed into law.

"And so, we're still fighting that fight while we're facing spending millions more dollars in drone attacks and even boots on the ground — we've not gotten there yet, but it's a proposition that causes a lot of emotion, as you can imagine," Carson continued.

"But, we've still got some domestic issues that need to be addressed before we get into a war. We know war is big business and that the defense industry will benefit tremendously, but at the end of the day we've got to focus on America."

Obama has just four confirmed "yes" votes among the Congressional Black Caucus, according to CNN's tally: Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La.; Rep. Corinne Brown, D-Fla.; and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., will vote no, CNN says, along with Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. The CNN tally lists Carson as undecided, citing an August 31, 2013 tweet about the issue, but the Washington Examiner regards him as a 'no' vote based on the more recent radio interview.

That leaves 35 members of the CBC undecided, though some appear to lean against authorizing military force in Syria, despite Obama's pleas.

“You know what I keep thinking? What would I be saying and what would I be doing if George Bush was in the White House?” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., for instance, told ABC News. “What’s right should be right — no matter who sleeps in the White House.”

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, asked CBC members "to limit public comment" on the Syria resolution in an email sent last Tuesday.

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