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Black lawmakers press Biden to deliver on his promises

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In their first formal meeting since Biden took office, the top leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus renewed their request that Biden name Shalanda Young, a Black woman, to head the Office of Management and Budget, according to Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), one of the meeting’s attendees.

They also sought, and received, assurances that Biden would name the first Black female Supreme Court justice if a seat became vacant, and to back legislation enacting a commission to study potential reparations for descendants of slavery.

The meeting, which had been scheduled for one hour but lasted two, reflected the importance of the relationship for both sides. Biden has vowed to put equity at the center of his administration, but the White House meeting brought into focus the issues by which Black voters will judge his tenure. Black Democratic leaders are hoping they can influence the Biden administration after being largely shut out during the tenure of President Donald Trump and seeing their communities experience outsize harm as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The caucus’s message to Biden “is wrapped in health care,” said the CBC’s chair, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio). “It is wrapped in closing the wealth gap. It is wrapped in voter rights, civil rights, reparations, and we’re looking at housing and environmental injustices.”

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose endorsement of Biden helped resuscitate his candidacy during the Democratic primaries last year, stressed that previous economic recoveries often lagged in Black communities.

“This time, we want to make sure that as we rescue the economy, we bring it back better, that we bring it back better for everybody,” Clyburn said, riffing on the name of Biden’s pandemic relief plan.

In an interview after leaving the White House, Horsford said the CBC members had reaffirmed their strong preference that the president nominate Young, now the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, to be the permanent director.

After Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination for the position, the CBC endorsed Young, who was initially nominated for the role of deputy. Asian American leaders have expressed concerns about the lack of representation of people of Asian descent in Cabinet and Cabinet-level roles, and many of the leaders have pushed Biden to nominate for the top spot Nani Coloretti, a deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

Biden is not known to have made a decision about filling the job, and the White House declined to comment about the position Tuesday.

The CBC members also urged Biden to oppose efforts they see as curtailing voting access for people of color.

“President Biden understands that while we are working on a whole range of issues from health care to vaccinations to infrastructure, we can both work on infrastructure and the infrastructure of our democracy at the same time,” Warnock said.

The meeting with Black lawmakers comes at a particularly turbulent time.

The prosecution rested Tuesday in the case of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with killing George Floyd, ending with emotional testimony from Floyd’s younger brother. Central to Chauvin’s defense is an effort to paint Floyd as a drug user whose criminal behavior contributed to his death.

Ten miles from the site of the trial, a Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer shot and killed a Black man during a traffic stop Sunday, setting off protests. Authorities said the officer, who has 26 years of service, mistook her service pistol for a Taser and fired the bullet that killed Daunte Wright, 20. The officer, Kim Potter, resigned on Tuesday, but that did little to quell local protests or national outcry, including from the nation’s highest office.

Before meeting with CBC members, Biden referred to “that god-awful shooting that led to [Wright’s] death” as well as to the simmering tensions amid trial over Floyd’s death.

Vice President Harris also addressed the killing earlier in the day, saying Wright “should be alive today. And to his family and loved ones, you must know that the president and I grieve with you as the nation grieves his loss, and we stand with you.”

At the same time, activists and civil rights leaders have criticized Republican-led efforts in multiple states to tighten voting laws after Trump’s election loss and his false claims of electoral fraud. Advocates say the many bills proposed in state legislatures around the country would do greatest harm to Blacks and other minorities.

Georgia has moved fastest on the restrictions, spurred by changing demographics that helped to hand the state’s two U.S. Senate seats and 13 presidential electoral votes to Democrats within the span of 60 days in the past election cycle. Biden has described the legislation as “Jim Crow on steroids” and said he supported Major League Baseball’s decision to move the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.

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