Members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- including Maryland Rep. Anthony G. Brown -- said they were encouraged by a long-awaited meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday and suggested there may be room for agreement on issues like infrastructure.
The lawmakers, led by Louisiana Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond, said they also raised "candid" concerns with Trump about cuts included in his proposed budget, how to address urban crime and his rhetoric during the campaign. The lawmakers said the president committed to continue the conversation.
"He listened and we talked, and we proposed a lot of solutions -- many of which I think he had not heard before," said Richmond, who is the chairman of the caucus.
Trump spoke with the lawmakers in the Cabinet Room after weeks of speculation about whether the meeting would be scheduled. During a press conference last month Trump asked a black reporter whether she wanted to "set up the meeting," asking "are they friends of yours?"
Brown, the former lieutenant governor who is one of two freshman lawmakers in Maryland's congressional delegation, is the CBC's parliamentarian. He described the meeting as "productive" and said the members "accomplished what we set out to do."
"We felt that in order to have a candid conversation with the president we couldn't tap dance around these issues," the Prince George's County Democrat said. "We quickly turned to our second goal , which was to identify a few policy areas" where they saw the potential for common ground.
Many Democrats have said Trump's promise to rebuild the nation's infrastructure is a concept they could support, depending on how such a proposal is structured. Brown said the lawmakers were also pleased Trump agreed to their request to meet with several members of his cabinet, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
"Throughout my campaign I pledged to focus on improving conditions for African-American citizens, this means more to me than anybody can understand," Trump told the lawmakers as the meeting began. "You know every American child has a right to grow up in a safe community, to attend great schools, to graduate with access to high-paying jobs."
Trump also mentioned a meeting he had with Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings earlier this month. The president described Cummings, a Democrat, as "a terrific man -- I know he wouldn't say that about me -- but I really like him a lot."