The controversy began on Wednesday after Ryan said on William
Bennett's talk radio show, "Morning in America," that 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 the value of work."
Representative Barbara Lee of California, a member of the
Congressional Black Caucus, called Ryan's remarks a "thinly veiled
"Let's be clear, when Mr. Ryan says 'inner city,' when he says,
'culture,' these are simply code words for what he really means:
'black'," Lee said in a statement.
Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate, is known for
budgets with proposed deep cuts to programs that help the poor. The
potential 2016 presidential contender has made a point of proposing
Republican solutions to ease poverty that focus on the private
The Wisconsin lawmaker, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said
in a statement that he "was inarticulate" about the point he was
trying to make.
"I was not implicating the culture of one community, but of society
as a whole," Ryan said. "We have allowed our society to isolate or
quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our
communities. The predictable result has been multi-generational
poverty and little opportunity."
Last week Ryan released a report on the federal government's
50-year-old "War on Poverty" that concluded that many of the 92
federal programs aimed at assisting the poor were "haphazard" and
contributed to a "poverty trap" that keeps people dependent on
Representative Marcia Fudge, chairwoman of the Congressional Black
Caucus, and Representative Gwen Moore, also from Wisconsin, sent
Ryan a letter in which they called his talk radio remarks "highly
offensive" and invited him to a meeting of the caucus to discuss
ways to eradicate poverty.
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"A serious policy conversation on poverty should not begin with
assumptions or stereotypes," they wrote.
Ryan spokesman William Allison said on Friday the House Budget
Committee chairman "would welcome a productive conversation on how
to better fight poverty, and he looks forward to meeting with the
CBC in the near future."
Allison declined to comment on the timing for Ryan's 2015 budget
House Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly said the House would pass
a budget this year that would reach balance within 10 years. This
would require deep cuts in federal benefit programs, especially if
previously agreed discretionary spending levels for 2015 are
Republican lawmakers and aides said on Friday that party leaders
were polling rank-and-file members to gauge support in the caucus
for a budget that balances in 10 years, indicating some uncertainty
over the path forward.
No Democrats are likely to vote for a Ryan budget, so to pass, it
would need 218 votes out of the party's 233 House members.
A two-year budget deal negotiated by Ryan and Democratic Senate
Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray had to rely on Democrats
for passage as 62 Republicans voted against it.
(Reporting By David Lawder)
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