The White House is pushing for Senate passage of summer jobs legislation, sending a signal to African-American leaders that it would lend its support to one of their top legislative priorities.

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

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% for blacks and 30% for Latinos, Lee said. 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.

“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. Reid is going to have the votes to pass it.” 

Cross-posted to On the Money