Hispanic Caucus Debates Whether to Let Republican Join

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hold a news conference
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hold a news conference / Getty Images

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is deciding whether to let Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.) join, triggering a controversy within a caucus that is composed entirely of Democrats.

The House Administration Committee is expected to tell the caucus by Thursday's weekly meeting if they are required to let him join, CHC Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D., N.M.) told Politico.

Last week, the CHC delayed dealing with the matter after many members of the caucus accused Curbelo of wanting to join as a political ploy for his reelection.

Curbelo's district is 70 percent Latino and is a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats. It has more Democrats than Republicans, and Hillary Clinton won it in the 2016 presidential election.

However, Curbelo easily won the district in his 2016 reelection with over ten percentage points more of the vote than his Democratic opponent.

Curbelo said the CHC would be dismissing Hispanic Republicans and independents if it excluded him from the caucus.

"The Congressional Hispanic Caucus should not discriminate against any American of Hispanic descent. The CHC should focus on uniting America’s Hispanic community in support of issues like compassionate immigration reform, economic growth and opportunity, and better education," Curbelo said in a statement.

Grisham would not say whether she thought Curbelo was pulling a stunt but said she understood why other members have concerns.

"He has to rebut that presumption, particularly after the way he’s managed it publicly. In this climate in particular, there are members of my caucus and members of even the Democratic Caucus who share, I think, credible reservations about what impact that can have," Grisham said.

The presence of a Republican has many CHC members worried because they often use meetings to strategize on combatting priorities of Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration.

"In those caucuses, we have very specific conversations about strategy. How do we deal with the White House? How do we deal with Homeland Security?" Grisham said. "Can you imagine the climate and the environment, the negative environment, if people don’t trust each other?"

Curbelo said regaining trust among voters will require doing some things that are not easy.

"It might be a little uncomfortable, but if we want to fix Congress and restore the people’s trust and confidence in this institution, we are all going to have reach beyond our comfort zones," Curbelo said.