A delegation of activists representing several social justice groups in Kentucky visited the White House on Wednesday for a meeting on how to avoid the fiscal cliff.
The discussion was hosted by President Obama’s director of public engagement, and was organized to build support for his plan that includes raising taxes on the wealthy. Leaders from the Louisville NAACP, Fairness Campaign and Planned Parenthood of Kentucky attended the session, along with a delegation from Tennessee.
ACLU of Kentucky Executive Director Michael Aldridge also attended the meeting. He says going over the fiscal cliff will not only hurt the economy, but would set back civil liberties issues as well.
“When Congress is preoccupied with having to tend these budgetary concerns they’re not taking up a lot of civil liberties issues that we would like them to be focusing on such as immigration reform, which the Obama administration has stressed they’re going to be taking up in the second term,” he says. “They’re not going to be able to move forward until they get their fiscal house in order.”
But negotiations between the Obama administration and Congress have stalled with less than a month until $607 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax hikes take effect in January.
NAACP President Raoul Cunningham says the group was asked by White House officials to help kick-start an action campaign that will pressure lawmakers.
But given that Kentucky is the home state of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell—who reminded Mr. Obama he lost the commonwealth leading up to the fiscal cliff negotiations—that may be a futile exercise for the delegation.
“I think the president’s approach is a balanced one, and he does have a mandate from the people although he doesn’t have one from Kentuckians,” says Cunningham. “What we have to do is educate the public on the impact of what is going on now in Washington, and make them aware of how they will be effected by cuts being made.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell offered Democrats the opportunity to vote on the president’s tax hike separately, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked the proposal after calling it a stunt.
Aldridge says congressional Democrats and Republicans do agree on extending tax cuts for middle-income earners, and should pass that immediately.
“Both parties have common ground on middle-class tax cuts, and that’s one place where we can start in a bipartisan fashion that’s going to find agreement across party lines while we work on the bigger picture,” he says.