By Kenneth Mallory
The Congressional Black Caucus' ended its series of town hall meetings Monday in Los Angeles with a call for legislation to put Americans to work.
The host, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, also sought to deflect criticism of her vocal comments during the For the People Jobs Initiative. At previous stops in other cities, she generated controversy for saying the Tea Party could "go to hell" and for admonishing blacks for their fears of being disloyal to President Barack Obama if they held him accountable for job creation in the African American community.
As at previous town halls, Waters said that the Congressional Black Caucus supported the president and wanted to see him re-elected, despite the criticisms she and other members had lodged against him.
"The work that we do in job creation and expanding opportunity has nothing to do with whether or not we like or love the president," said Waters. Rather, Waters said, the caucus was interested in "helping the president protect his base" so that he could achieve reelection.
"We will continue our work of reaching out, organizing, being the legislators that you sent us to be, creating good public policy," Waters said, "and we're going to lead to fight and stand up to the Tea Party and any and everybody else who wants to take us down, take us out, destroy this country and destroy this government."
The town hall, held at Crenshaw Christian Center, was attended by more caucus members than any other tour stop.
Other House members participating, all Democrats, included Andre Carson of Indiana; Laura Richardson, Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, all of California; John Conyers and Hansen Clark, both of Michigan; CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri; Cedric Richmond of Louisiana; and Sheila Jackson-Lee and Al Green, both of Texas.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. was also a panelist for the town hall, which was moderated by MSNBC correspondent Mara Schiavocampo.
Before they answered questions about unemployment and the national economy, caucus members sang each other's praises and defended the caucus mission of bringing awareness to joblessness.
Caucus members also criticized the media's coverage of the Jobs Tour.
"I'm glad that media outlets are here, and I'm glad that this has been widely covered," Bass said. "But part of the way that it's been covered frankly has pissed me off, because they always want to see us divided. The Congressional Black Caucus is fighting for jobs. The Congressional Black Caucus is very clear who we want to see in the White House in the next four years, and we're not going to let them divide us. We're not going to let them pit us against each other, and we're not going to let them attack the members of the CBC the way they have attempted to do over and over again."
Cleaver, the caucus chair, weighed in as well. "We've not gone around the country to make enemies, we've gone around the country to make a difference," said Cleaver. "A wheelbarrow will never move unless it's pushed, and that's the same way with this economy. If we don't push this economy, if we don't do some things to ignite the economy, it's not going to go anywhere."
Conyers said the Congressional Black Caucus must meet immediately with the president, who is expected to announce his plan for job creation after Labor Day, "to let him know what is going on in our communities" and to get his support for the jobs legislation proposed by caucus members.
"His advisers are not advising him correctly," said Conyers. "We have to have the president of the United States coming out for the jobs bill that will put millions of Americans back to work."
Conyers said the caucus would hold a jobs rally at the White House the day before its Annual Legislative Conference on Sept. 21.
Caucus members spoke of several initiatives to create employment.
Jackson-Lee, for example, spoke of holding government contractors accountable for providing jobs.
"Right now your tax dollars across America are building up the fat pockets of contractors everywhere you can see them," Jackson-Lee told attendees of the town hall. "Everybody that gets a government contract should be made to give a plan of how they're going to hire the people in your neighborhood. And they should not get a contract if they don't hire you in your neighborhood."
Carson spoke of utilizing alternative energy and harnessing organized labor to create job opportunities for young adults. The discussion also included entrepreneurship and grants for small business as mechanisms to create jobs.
Several other topics at the Los Angeles town hall had been discussed at previous tour stops in Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta and Miami.
Richardson, for instance, spoke again about reauthorization of the transportation bill and the need to push for projects that would be of "national significance" and create long-term jobs.
The town hall also featured a performance of the "National Anthem" by R&B singer Tyrese.
A representative for the Congressional Black Caucus said there were no definitive numbers on how many jobs have been offered to attendees of the For The People Jobs Initiative.