White House joins CBC to urge Senate passage of summer jobs legislation

An economic adviser to the president, Cecilia Rouse, joined the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), on a conference call to tout House passage of a $600 million summer jobs bill that advocates say could create as many as 300,000 jobs this summer.

Rouse and Lee called on the Senate to take action on the package.

The White House engagement came a day after black religious met with President Barack Obama in a gathering aimed at defusing tensions between the administration and the black community over concerns that Obama has not focused enough on the struggles of African Americans during the economic downturn.

Thursday's event is meant to send the signal to African-American leaders that the White House will lend its support to one of their top legislative priorities.

The CBC has pressed for the bill as a way of addressing the soaring unemployment rate among minority teenagers, which reaches as high as 39 percent for blacks and 30 percent for Latinos, Lee said.

“We have to do more,” Lee said. She praised the administration’s efforts to boost the economy and citing last month’s positive jobs report, but she joined the prevailing White House message that a 9.7% national unemployment rate was “not good enough.”

Rouse said the administration was focused “like a laser-beam” on job creation and on making sure that its economic policies were “inclusive.”

The funding would go to cities and non-profits for summer jobs programs, and would build on money that was included in last year’s economic stimulus package. Rouse urged quick action by the Senate. “It’s really important that we get the resources to the communities as soon as possible,” she said.

As for the Senate, Lee said she was “confident that Sen. [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] is going to have the votes to pass it.” 

This article was updated to correct the price tag of the summer jobs bill.

Cross-posted to the Briefing Room