CBC urges approval of $1.5B jobs bill to stem summer violence

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and others on Thursday said unemployment rates in the inner cities are well above the national average and could lead to violence by inner-city youth during the hot summer. 

They said their $1.5 billion jobs bill should be approved as "emergency" legislation, which would negate pay-as-you-go rules stipulating that bills must be offset with other spending cuts or revenue-raisers. The legislation has already been approved by the House, but is stalled in the Senate.

"We all want to reduce the deficit — we understand that and we get that," Lee said at a press conference. "Many of us supported pay-go, but we also supported it understanding that the provisions for emergency spending were there if such a designation were made. And this is an emergency." 

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said youth violence had already begun but would likely escalate over the summer after school lets out and the young are turned out onto the streets with no job to keep them out of trouble. 

"This is an emergency," he said. "If we don't act quickly, we will regret it sometime over the middle of the summer."

The unemployment rate in March for African-American males was 16.6 percent, compared to the 9.7 percent national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The new jobs report for April will be released on Friday.

Lee has met with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on a possible vehicle for the program, but the cost, and the fact it is not offset with other spending cuts or revenue-raisers, is a sticking point for the chairman. The congresswoman said that roughly $900 million of the $1.5 billion she is requesting is not offset.

"Our leadership is in the process now of negotiation and trying to see where, in fact, these provisions would be most appropriate," she said. "That remains to be seen." 

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) is also working to ensure his chamber views the measure as emergency spending. 

"I'm going to do everything I can to deal with the issues over there [in the Senate] and push 'em — find out just how much clout I have," he said.

"This is an emergency. If we don't think this is an emergency, just wait and see what happens if we don't do it."