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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Allen West Joins Congressional Black Caucus: Tim Scott Declines

U.S. House Black Caucus Invites 2 New GOP African-Americans; Tim Scott Balks

The chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday that two African-American Republicans elected to Congress last week were welcome to join the group, but one of the new members-elect -- Tim Scott of South Carolina -- indicated he would decline.

"I grew up in an environment where we were just very much integrated, and life worked out really well," Scott told reporters Tuesday. "I think the best for America is finding a way to fuse all of our communities together and erase all those lines that separate us."

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who chairs the Black Caucus, said in a statement that membership in the traditionally left-leaning group "has never been restricted to Democrats."

"Should either of the two African-American Republicans recently elected to the House of Representatives request membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, they will be welcomed," Lee's statement said.

Rep.-elect Allen West of Florida, the other incoming black Republican, told CNN on Sunday that he intended to join the CBC.

Scott, who was tapped by House GOP leaders to serve on the Republican transition team, signaled he might be interested in the new seat at the Republican leadership table created for a representative of the incoming freshman class.

"Certainly I am going to keep my eyes open and see what happens," Scott said, adding he would "get back home tonight and figure out what I'm going to do by tomorrow or Thursday and starting working towards it or start working for someone else."

Scott argued his class should wield some real power because of its numbers, adding: "I think we should play an important role, a prominent role."

Endorsed by the Tea Party in his campaign, Scott was noncommittal about joining the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, saying: "I don't know much about it, but certainly l support the Tea Party platform."

He downplayed the importance of congressional caucuses, calling them "simply optional at this point."

In addition, Scott said he supported Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling over Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann of Minnesota for the No. 4 House GOP leadership post, saying Hensarling has been actively seeking support from new members while he had yet to hear from Bachmann.

Another incoming freshman supported by the Tea Party, Republican Rep.-elect Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, also said Tuesday that he was supporting Hensarling and was not planning to join the Tea Party caucus that Bachmann founded earlier this year.

Congressional 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 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.

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, 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.

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Sources: CNN, MSNBC, Youtube, Google Maps

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