Black caucus says it will allow Republicans

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2010 5:09 PM
Black caucus says it will allow Republicans

The Congressional Black Caucus says it will allow two recently elected black Republicans to join the group if they ask.

The all-Democratic caucus had wavered over the issue since Tim Scott of South Carolina and Allen West of Florida were elected last week. Chairwoman Barbara Lee of California had pointed to the group's liberal mission statement as a potential point of conflict.

But in a statement Tuesday, the group said the two would be welcomed if they request membership.

West has said he wants to join to bring a new perspective to the group. Scott hasn't decided but said in an interview Tuesday he's leaning against it.

The 42-member caucus has had two Republican members in its four-decade history. The most recent black Republican in Congress, J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, who retired in 2003, declined to join.

The black caucus includes a handful of moderates but is mostly made up of liberals serving in safe Democratic districts. The addition of Republicans would likely shake up its weekly meetings and require its leaders to navigate around them to discuss strategy.

West, a former Army officer, said in an interview he's eager to steer the group away from "failing liberal social welfare policies that have caused the demise of the black community."

West said the black caucus must confront overwhelming issues in the African-American community including high teen pregnancy, incarceration and unemployment rates. Those are issues that require "competence and character," not the caucus' "monolithic voice that continues to promote victimization and dependence."

West defeated Democratic Rep. Ron Klein despite opposition from African-American Democrats such as Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida.

Scott, who won a seat left open by retiring Republican Rep. Henry Brown, said he doesn't see much need for a black-only group.

"My theory is that the world that I've always lived in has been a world that's been integrated," he said. "We can work it out together ... to no one's exclusion."

Scott and West are the first black Republicans to be elected to Congress from their states since Reconstruction.


Associated Press writers Kelli Kennedy in Miami and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.