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Black Republican advocates his case for CBC membership

Black Republican advocates his case for CBC membership
© Greg Nash

First-term Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who is seeking membership to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), advocated his own case on Thursday, saying that his conservative point of view could be beneficial to the influential group.

“Whether they want to take advantage of that, it's really up to them,” Donalds, 42, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “I've actually expressed interest in joining, I think having a wider range of discussions from all sides of the political framework is important not just for Black America, but all America.”

The Florida congressman is one of two Black Republicans in the House; Rep. Burgess Owens (Utah), who is also in his first term, is the other.

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Unlike Owens, who has made it clear that he has no intention of trying to gain membership into the Congressional Black Caucus, Donalds reached out about membership soon after arriving in Washington, Politico reported in February.

In an early March interview, Donalds told The Hill that he’d made contact with the CBC about joining, calling it “a process.”

However, on Wednesday an anonymous source told BuzzFeed that the CBC was blocking Donalds’s caucus membership.

“The Congressional Black Caucus remains committed to fighting for issues that support Black communities, including the police accountability bill, protecting voting rights, and a jobs bill that helps our communities,” Airen Washington, communications director for the CBC, told The Hill on Wednesday evening.

“We will work with those who share our values and priorities for the constituents we serve.”

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During his interview with CNN, Keilar questioned Donalds about whether his views, including his ardent support of former President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE, put him at irreconcilable odds with the CBC’s goals.

Donalds answered that his support for Trump “has nothing to do with this discussion.” 

“This is whether the ideology of somebody who is conservative is welcome to the Congressional Black Caucus,” he said.

In a statement to The Hill, Donalds’s communications director Harrison Fields added: “All we've got is the cold shoulder.”

Black Republicans being in the CBC isn’t a novel concept, however since the caucus’s founding in 1971 only four Black GOP lawmakers have held membership, most recently former Rep. Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) LoveBlack Republican advocates his case for CBC membership Black women look to build upon gains in coming elections Voters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican MORE (Utah) in 2019.

The CBC invited Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThousands sent to emergency rooms every year due to violent police encounters: investigation Democrats fear they are running out of time on Biden agenda White House says Biden crime address won't undercut police reform bill MORE (S.C.) — the only Black Republican in the Senate — when he was first elected as a congressman to the House in 2010, but he declined the offer.

That said, prominent figures in the caucus, such as House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThousands sent to emergency rooms every year due to violent police encounters: investigation Democrats fear they are running out of time on Biden agenda White House says Biden crime address won't undercut police reform bill MORE (D-Calif.), were some of Trump’s loudest critics.

Moreover, the CBC’s agenda this session is decidedly progressive, with the caucus wanting to see voting rights bills H.R. 1 and the John LewisJohn LewisCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden to deliver remarks on voting access next week Schumer vows next steps after 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE Voting Rights Act signed into law before the end of the year.

Police reform, another top priority of the CBC, is in the midst of a potential bipartisan breakthrough in the form of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, though a lack of consensus on sticking points such as qualified immunity has kept the bill stalled in the Senate.  

The caucus is also a big proponent of critical race theory and advancing racial equity, both of which Donalds is firmly against.