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Bush Seeks Support From African-Americans

President Bush is holding a series of meetings this week with African-American leaders, seeking their support for his domestic agenda. Mr. Bush is looking for common ground.

On Tuesday, the president sat down for two hours with a group of African-American religious business leaders. On Wednesday, he consulted with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Many of the 43 African-Americans who serve in the U.S. Congress took part in the session. All of them are Democrats, who have been at odds in the past with various Bush administration policies.

When they emerged from their hour-long meeting, Caucus Chairman Mel Watt said the group presented the president with its own list of legislative and policy priorities.

“As a caucus, we are committed to closing disparities between African-Americans and the majority community,” said Mr. Watt. “And our primary criteria in evaluating anything that is proposed will be does it close or eliminate disparities that have persisted throughout our history.”

The North Carolina congressman said the meeting was cordial, but produced no breakthroughs. He said the Caucus will be watching to see what the president does next.

“Well, I don't think anything changed today other than we had a meeting, a very cordial meeting,” he added. “I think what happens after today is a lot more important in evaluating whether we have changed the equation or not.”

The North Carolina congressman said the Caucus will listen closely to the president's State of the Union Address next Wednesday, and will study the proposed 2006 budget the administration sends to Capitol Hill a few days later.

He indicated African-American lawmakers will focus largely on domestic issues. But the Caucus agenda also calls on the president to pay more attention to, what it calls, disparities in foreign policy and devote more resources to Africa and the Caribbean.

The African-American community has been one of the Democratic Party's most important constituencies for decades. Exit polls showed President Bush getting 11 percent of the black vote in the 2004 election, up slightly from the nine percent he received in 2000.