WASHINGTON – Many Democrats have been quick to dismiss Donald Trump’s recent comments on the state of black America as tone deaf, but not U.S. Rep. David Scott. The Atlanta Democrat, a centrist with an independent streak, instead sees an opportunity.
Scott has made a career of trying to find economic opportunities for young African American men who face stubbornly high unemployment rates. The longtime lawmaker said the spotlight the presidential race has put on the black community in recent months offers an opening for Congress to advance legislation on the issue.
“I think the Lord works in strange and mysterious ways,” said Scott in an interview.
The longtime Hillary Clinton supporter said Trump’s comments on the plight of African Americans “could have been done in a much more dignified way.” “But hell, it got the attention it needed to get,” he added.
Scott is partnering with North Dakota Republican Kevin Cramer to advance a bill that would incentivize businesses, contractors and labor unions to hire and train young black men to work on the nation’s infrastructure projects.
Scott said the measure’s bipartisan credentials, paired with the attention both Clinton and Trump have lavished on the need to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and the plight of the black community, could make it an appealing one for the Republican-led Congress to consider this fall.
“Now that (those issues are) on the front burner again it’s very important to get the nation to see, the world to see that hey, we’ve got a very strong, good bipartisan bill here that’s ready to go, that moves the African American males into tremendously high-paying jobs with skilled training,” Scott said. “Let’s use this rebuilding of the infrastructure to put an economic elevator underneath the African American community.”
Scott and Cramer face a very narrow window for moving their legislation before the election. The House is only scheduled to be in session for three more weeks before voters hit the polls. And with new fights over Zika and government funding on the horizon, it’ll be a hectic September.