WASHINGTON: Rep. Marcia Fudge didn’t sugarcoat her feelings about the fact that President Barack Obama has not yet chosen any black appointees to fill open high-level positions in his second term.
“The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity,” the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote in a terse letter to Obama this month. “Their ire is compounded by the overwhelming support you’ve received from the African-American community.”
The letter’s tone and tenor typifies the blunt, hard-charging style of Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, and signals a shift in how the 43-member caucus of black Senate and House of Representatives members will approach the nation’s first black president in his final years in office.
“I’m a very direct person just generally,” said Fudge, whose redrawn congressional district straddles the Interstate 77 corridor from Cleveland into Akron. “I don’t use a lot of words unnecessarily. I try to get to the heart of the issue, address it and go on to the next thing.”
Fudge hopes to give the CBC a “bigger voice” beyond Congress in order to press an agenda that includes improving economic conditions for African-Americans, preserving and improving voting rights laws, and seeking a balanced change in the country’s immigration laws.
“I believe we can be stronger, more visible, but I also think we can be more effective if we take our positions beyond Capitol Hill,” Fudge said of the caucus. “We want to make sure that everybody understands that we’re not some group that’s so way out that we can’t fit in the mainstream. We are very mainstream, and I want that message to be told.”
Over the last four years, many CBC members held their tongues, quietly grumbled or delicately expressed frustration about a seeming inability to get their message to Obama.
They contend the president was inattentive to a number of issues impacting blacks, especially an unemployment rate nearly twice the nation’s overall jobless rate.
Their frustration is amplified by the amount of time it’s been since the caucus has met with the president — it will be two years on May 12. Obama met with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in January and proclaimed revamping immigration laws as a top legislative priority. Fudge says she expects the countdown to end soon, though she doesn’t have a meeting date from the White House yet.