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By Nathalie Baptiste | Feb 11, 2016
After losing the White House in 2012, the Republican Party set out to do some “soul searching” to figure out how to make inroads with African-American voters who traditionally support Democrats. The following year, the Republican National Committee released a comprehensive “Growth and Opportunity Project” report, which included a detailed plan on how to reach blacks and other minority voters.
House Republicans are now taking a page out of that playbook to try to broaden the appeal of the GOP—and one of their most recent efforts involves black Democratic lawmakers.
House Speaker Paul Ryan signaled his interest in studying the “10-20-30” plan, an anti-poverty initiative that Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina and the Congressional Black Caucus have championed for years.
The 10-20-30 initiative is a now expired provision of the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which Clyburn originally proposed. The provision allocated 10 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $2.5 billion rural development budget in “persistent poverty counties”—where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more.
The ARRA initiative funded more than 4,000 projects in persistent poverty counties, including 108 water and environmental projects. Clyburn and the CBC want to restore the program and expand it to all federal agencies. According to Clyburn, the 10-20-30 plan does not add to the federal deficit—which appeals to Republican lawmakers—because it “allocates resources from funds already authorized or appropriated.”
Reviving this program could attract support from voters in both major parties.
The plan might also help repair the GOP’s tattered image in communities of color. According to a 2015 Pubic Policy Polling poll, support for Republicans among African Americans remains dismal.
Speaker Ryan’s interest in the anti-poverty initiative is a stark contrast to the racially coded comments he made in 2014, when he blamed poverty in urban minority communities on lazy men.
“We have got this 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 and the culture of work,” he said on a conservative radio show and “and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”
Ryan’s evolving views on poverty may be linked to the fact that Republican congressional districts stand to gain from the 10-20-30 plan. According to Representative Clyburn, there are 492 counties in “persistent poverty” that would qualify for the funds under a new program: Republican lawmakers currently represent 372 of those counties or about 76 percent of them.
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