Ryan holds meeting with black members of Congress

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Paul Ryan said Wednesday he had a productive meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a gathering that came weeks after comments the Wisconsin Republican made about poverty and inner cities stirred allegations of racism from some members of the caucus.

The 2012 vice presidential nominee and members of the black caucus said the more than hour-long private meeting was polite but did not yield any policy breakthroughs.

“The first step to real reform is a frank conversation,” Ryan said. “We need to figure out what works.”

Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge said the meeting included a “respectful and cordial discussion.” The Ohio Democrat said everyone agreed that poverty was an important issue but that they disagreed on how to deal with it.

The meeting amounted to Ryan making good on a promise made after coming under heavy criticism for things he said on a talk radio show last month during a discussion about poverty.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working,” Ryan said on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” show.

Democrats heavily criticized the comment, which they said contained racial undertones. Within a day, Ryan said he was inarticulate about the point he was trying to make and pledged to meet with the black caucus.

Fudge said Ryan reiterated during Wednesday’s meeting that his comment was inarticulate.

Ryan said after the meeting that he was happy to begin a “conversation with my colleagues today.”

Ryan has sought to make poverty a signature issue. Earlier Wednesday, he hosted a hearing focused on poverty his capacity as House Budget Committee chairman.

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