The two newly elected black Republicans are welcome in the Congressional Black Caucus, CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee said Tuesday.
“Membership in the CBC has never been restricted to Democrats,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “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.”
Rep.-elect Allen West (Fla.) has said publicly that he is interested in joining the bloc; Rep.-elect Tim Scott (S.C.) has not yet said whether he would like to be a member.
A Democratic strategist with ties to the CBC said some of the group’s members were wary of Republicans joining “just to play games.” The topic was a focus of a CBC conference call late last week.
But, as Lee pointed out, there is precedence for the group to include GOP Members.
“During the 40 year history of the Congressional Black Caucus there have been three African American Republican members of the House of Representatives,” she said. “Two, Congressmen Melvin Evans of the Virgin Islands and Gary Franks of Connecticut, decided to join the Congressional Black Caucus, however, Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma did not.”
The CBC’s bylaws include a nondiscriminatory provision so the Republicans are free to join if they wish. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said before the elections that any black Republicans elected on Nov. 2 would be welcome in the group.