Black caucus hits Senate GOP for sitting on summer jobs bill

In a letter hand-delivered to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office and other Republicans, CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) criticized Senate Republicans for stalling job-growth legislation passed by the House. She singled out a program supported by the CBC that would provide summer jobs for young people.

“Shamefully, in March Republicans in the Senate even rejected a provision offered by Senators [Patty] Murray [D-Wash.] and [Barbara] Boxer [D-Calif.] that would fund a summer jobs program for youth,” Lee wrote. “We write today to stress the need for action on these vital measures."

Lee's letter is the latest sign of growing tension between the House and Senate. In February, The Hill reported that the House had passed 290 bills that had stalled in the Senate; that total is now above 300, according to a senior Democratic aide.

An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) complained at the time that the total was the highest since aides began keeping track of languishing legislation.

In January, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) also suggested the Senate was out of touch with Americans, and did not differentiate between the two parties.

Lee's letter makes it clear that she views the stalled legislation in racial tones, noting that the unemployment rate for African-American teenagers increased to 38 percent in May, despite a drop in the overall unemployment rate.

“The weak labor market has been especially tough on youth of color, many of whom are responsible for contributing to the economic well-being of their families,” Lee wrote. “Finally, if the Republican Conference continues to block all legislation, you will be standing in the way of over $4 billion in tax cuts for individuals and over $18 billion in tax relief for businesses.”

A senior Republican aide responded later Wednesday afternoon by noting that GOP Policy Chairman John Thune (S.D.) has proposed a $980 million measure to fund summer jobs. The aide said Democrats had "stifled the proposal."


Here is the full text of the letter to Republican senators:

June 24, 2010 

 The Honorable

 Senate Office Building

 Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Senator []:

For many months the Congressional Black Caucus has been sounding the alarm about the urgent and vital need to create jobs in America, particularly in communities such as many in your state, that have disproportionately suffered the brunt of this economic crisis.  These communities are in desperate need of targeted, concrete and meaningful relief.

A long list of legislation now exists, passed by the House of Representatives but  languishing in the Senate.  From the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, the Small Business and Jobs Credit Act and legislation to assist needy families, we in the House have acted while the
Senate has not. Shamefully, in March Republicans in the Senate even rejected a provision offered by Senators Murray and Boxer that would fund a summer jobs program for youth.  We write today to stress the need for action on these vital measures.

The weak labor market has been especially tough on youth of color, many of whom are responsible for contributing to the economic well-being of their families. While the overall unemployment rate dropped in May, the unemployment rate for African American youth age 16-19 increased to 38 percent - almost a full percentage point higher than in April, 2010. Latino
youth are unemployed at a rate of 28.6 percent.

Finally, if the Republican Conference continues to block all legislation, you will be standing in the way of over $4 billion in tax cuts for individuals and over $18 billion in tax relief for businesses.

We respectfully urge you to act with all deliberate speed on behalf of your constituents and others in need.

Sincerely, 
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Chairwoman