Republican says he'll join Black Caucus

Rep.-elect Allen West (Fla.), the black Republican vying for a spot on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), said this week that he’ll soon be joining the group.

“There are two criteria to be a member of the Congressional Black Caucus — you must be black and you must be a member of Congress, and when I woke up this morning, I think I met both of those criteria,” West told The Hill on Tuesday. “So I will be joining.”

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West, who was backed by the Tea Party in his successful bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Ron Klein (Fla.) in the midterms, is opposed to many of the measures championed by the CBC, including the new healthcare law and climate change legislation.

Last month, CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) seemed to imply that West might not be allowed to join based on his policy positions.

“Our agenda is about lifting people out of poverty, providing middle-class tax cuts, supporting climate-change legislation,” she told The Economist. “Do [incoming black Republicans] embrace this agenda?”

Last week, the CBC walked back Lee’s statement, announcing that Republicans wishing to join the group “will be welcomed.”

Two black Republicans were elected to the House in the midterms election: West and Rep.-elect Tim Scott (S.C.). They’re the first black Republicans to win seats in the chamber since Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) retired in 2003.

West said he’s scheduled “to have a chat” with Lee this week.

“There’s a planning meeting tomorrow that I’ll try to go in,” West said.

The CBC is a traditionally Democratic group — if only because the House has hosted just three black Republicans in the CBC's 40-year history. Two of the three joined the CBC. The last — Rep. Gary Franks (Conn.) — retired in 1997.

West has said he wants to join in order to bring some ideological diversity to the group.

“Right now the Congressional Black Caucus has kind of got a broken wing,” he said. “You heard what just happened with Charlie Rangel [D-N.Y.], and I think Congressman [James] Clyburn [D-S.C.] has kind of been pushed aside with this made-up [House leadership] position.

“So it’s time to have some differing voices and perspectives in the CBC,” West said.

The CBC did not immediately respond to questions about the meeting West referenced.

This post was updated at 9:25 a.m. on Nov. 17.