CBC head criticizes story in The Hill

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Thursday criticized a story in The Hill on the group’s meeting with White House adviser Valerie Jarrett as “dishonest and misleading.”

The story in print, headlined “Feud escalates between Obama, black lawmakers,” reported on Wednesday meetings between CBC members and Jarrett that included a discussion on Obama’s judicial nominees — a sore point for many in the group. The online headline is "CBC dislikes Jarrett's message."

ADVERTISEMENT
In a statement Thursday, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the group’s chairwoman, faulted what she said was a “sensational headline” and a “false narrative."

Fudge said Jarrett had “assuaged our concerns” about judicial nominees.

She added, “With its sensational headlines and by weaving together a false narrative about conversations that take place, The Hill continues to mischaracterize the Congressional Black Caucus and its work. The Hill has consistently created an adversarial relationship between members of the CBC and the administration without attribution to facts and without acknowledgement to leadership within the CBC. It is a disservice to its readers and to this congressional body.”

The Hill's editor-in-chief, Hugo Gurdon, said, “The Hill reports the facts. Three CBC members — Reps. David Scott (D-Ga.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) — are quoted on the record in the story. We think their comments speak for themselves, and we stand by our reporting.

"Rep. Scott even tweeted out the story after it was published on Thursday. In reporting our stories this past week, we have asked the CBC leadership to send us specific examples of what it believes we have got wrong, and we have also offered to meet and discuss any concerns they may have. The CBC did not respond to these offers.”

Jarrett held two meetings on Wednesday with the CBC in the wake of criticism the group and other Democrats have made of President Obama’s judicial nominees in the South. One nominee in Georgia once supported a state bill to keep the Confederate battle emblem as part of Georgia’s flag. Another led the defense of the state’s photo ID law, which CBC members and other Democrats claim is designed to keep minorities from voting.

Jarrett defended Obama’s record during and after the meeting, saying Obama had a “commitment to diversity.”

Asked if the White House would consider replacing any of its choices, Jarrett’s answer was “No.”

Bishop said after the two meetings that “nobody’s happy.”

“It’s a messed-up process,” he added.

Jarrett first met Wednesday with five CBC members on the topic of judges. The group included Fudge, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and three members of the CBC's judicial nominations workforce: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Cleaver and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).

She then met with a wider group of CBC members, where the issue was raised again.

In the CBC statement released on Thursday, Holmes Norton did not criticize The Hill’s story but said the CBC appreciated that the administration had sent high-level officials to meet with the CBC Judicial Nominations Working Group.

She also suggested the CBC’s real problem on judicial nominees is not with the administration but with Republican senators who have issued “blue slips” that have prevented some nominees from moving forward. She said the CBC was asking for a meeting with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee chairman.

While a vote by Senate Democrats changed the upper chamber’s filibuster rules to prevent most judicial nominations from being blocked, Senate tradition allows a senator to issue a “blue slip” giving a favorable or unfavorable opinion to a judicial nominee in the senator’s state. An unfavorable slip can prevent the nominee from moving forward.

“The CBC continues to applaud the administration’s record in appointing more African American judges to the bench than any president in U.S. history,” Norton said in the statement.

“During the meeting, we reiterated what we have always said — our focus has never been on the administration alone,” she added. “With the filibuster reform breakthrough, which was a high priority of the CBC, we see the opportunity to quickly fill the unusually high number of federal judicial vacancies.  

“We know that the historic filibuster reform is being countermanded in some cases, as the blue slip process is being used to keep qualified African American nominees from being nominated or moving forward,” she said.

Norton said the group would hold GOP senators “equally responsible” if African-American nominees are held back.   

“We are holding the Senators, in this case, the Republican Senators of the 11th Circuit — Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and John Isakson (R-GA) — equally responsible if African Americans the administration desires cannot be nominated or are nominated by the administration and are then unfairly held up with use of the blue slip system,” she wrote. “We intend to not only hold the Senators responsible, but to inform their constituents in the 11th Circuit, and other circuits, who are dependent on them — and us — to ensure the fair appointment of judges.

This article was updated at 4:30 p.m