Ryan, Black Lawmakers Remain Divided After Meeting

Image: U.S. Representative Ryan talks to reporters as he departs a Republican House caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) talks to reporters as he departs a Republican House caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington April 29, 2014. JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

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House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday to discuss the issue of poverty, a meeting that was set after Ryan's comments about unemployment in "inner cities" sparked accusations that the use of the term was racial.

"I thought it was good for the congressman to come by, and I think that he says that he has done a tour of the United States and learned a lot," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told members of the press after the meeting.

"He still has a lot to learn," Cummings added.

CBC Chair Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, told the press she appreciated Ryan coming to speak to them, but that, "We didn't get a whole lot accomplished."

"We do agree on a number of things," Fudge said. "One is that we are both concerned about the poverty in this country, we just disagree on how we address the problem."

Ryan after the meeting said that he is "excited that we're having this conversation," and that "we all have to do a better job of challenging the status quo on how best to fight poverty. We've shared a lot of ideas together on how to do that."

"I think we can learn from these exchanges with one another," Ryan said, "And I think what we're trying to accomplish here is improving the tone of debate so that more people are invited to this debate so that we can do a better job of actually getting control of our problems with poverty."

The CBC invited Ryan to speak to the lawmakers after he went on "Bill Bennett's Morning in America" radio show in March and said there was a "tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work."

Members of the CBC condemned the comments, with Rep Barbara Lee, D-Cali., releasing a statement calling them "a thinly veiled racial attack (that) cannot be tolerated."

Ryan responded saying that he had spoken to Lee over the phone, and admitted that he had been "inarticulate" during the interview.