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Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021

Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021
© Bloomberg/Pool

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) touted its increasing numbers and high-profile clashes with the Trump administration in a new report highlighting its accomplishments and efforts during the 116th Congress.

Throughout the biennial report released Thursday, the CHC contrasted its activities with those of an administration it called “corrupt,” “cruel” and exhibiting a “culture of death.”

The report shines a light on a caucus that’s grown more in relevance than in true political power, as its core issues have been thrust onto the national stage during the last four years by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE.

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“It’s been a very busy and intense two years for the CHC,” said Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroFormer DNC finance chairman Henry Muñoz: Latinos 'need to lead ourselves' Overnight Defense: Trump says he's leaving Walter Reed, 'feeling really good' after COVID-19 treatment | White House coronavirus outbreak grows | Dems expand probe into Pompeo speeches House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo's political speeches MORE (D-Texas), the group’s chairman.

“Members have been active on so many issues, including many at the forefront of major conversations, controversies and disputes in American society,” he added.

The 50-plus page report reflects a CHC that’s taken ownership of those issues and become more involved; for instance, the caucus led eight congressional delegations to hot spots like immigrant detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 39-member group has also quickly become an obligatory reference point for almost any Democratic lawmaker addressing issues of poverty, inequality and immigration.

“Fortunately, the larger Democratic Caucus has been very supportive of the CHC and the way we have taken on issues that have always been under our purview, like the immigration issue, but also expanding out to issues of diversity in the Congress and in the media, for example,” said Castro.

While CHC members have a wide range of opinions, the group has for the most part shown unity when confronting the administration, and in most instances when arguing its case within the broader Democratic Caucus.

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But the CHC has also had to balance the needs of new members and how the group fits into the overall Democratic majority in the House.

“You have to manage the growth in membership and division of perspectives and also sometimes a battle for territory within the larger Democratic Caucus,” said Castro.

When Democrats won back the House in November 2018, the CHC had to create new alliances and build on existing ones to better confront Trump and advance its agenda within the Democratic House.

One initiative led by Castro within the CHC was to join forces with the Congressional Black Caucus under Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassPorter raises .2 million in third quarter Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police MORE (D-Calif.), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus under Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Lawmakers of color blast Trump administration for reportedly instructing agencies to end anti-bias training MORE (D-Calif.) and the Native American Caucus under Rep. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Rep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium MORE (D-N.M.) on a variety of issues.

“Judy and Karen and I worked from the very beginning of our terms to come together early on a shared agenda and vision and execute from there,” said Castro, whose CHC leadership position expires at the end of this Congress.

The race to succeed him is heating up, with Reps. Nannette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Raul RuizRaul RuizHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Jon Stewart urges Congress to help veterans exposed to burn pits House Democrat who's a physician calls on Trump to 'man up' and wear mask MORE (D-Calif.) and Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarPocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 MORE (D-Texas) competing for the top spot.

Democrats are cautiously optimistic about November’s presidential election, but if they succeed in defeating Trump, the CHC will have to once again reinvent its role in the absence of its chief antagonist.

Barragán argued that the CHC will continue to grow in large part because issues disproportionately affecting Hispanics and other people of color are core issues in American political life.

“The issues that impact Latinos are issues that impact all of us,” she said.

Latinos, who have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, regularly list health care and the economy as their top priorities. The environment and climate change are also generally top concerns, as many Latinos live in the most polluted areas of the country, or in regions heavily affected by climate change, like California.

The contenders for the CHC chair say their legislative goals won’t change even if former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability MORE is elected.

“The vitriol the president has unleashed won’t go away even if he loses, and the CHC must play a strong role in the 117th Congress to not just be the conscience of the Congress on issues related to Latinos, immigrants, and the right to dignity and respect for every human being, but indeed to be the conscience of the country,” said Escobar.

Barragán and Ruiz both said the CHC will maintain an aggressive legislative agenda.

“You aim for big bold things and then you have to negotiate,” said Barragán. “We want to continue to put forward legislation and ideas and solutions that CHC members support, and we should start big because the problems we’re talking about are big.”

Ruiz said watering down bills “is not a champion’s perspective.”

“There’s no way that with a path to passage that may open because of change in the White House and the Senate, that [bills are] going to be watered down or softened,” added Ruiz.

The CHC’s first vice chair, Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoLeadership matters: President's words and actions show he is unfit to lead our nation Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy House Democrat optimistic defense bill will block Trump's Germany withdrawal MORE (D-Ariz.), said that under a unified government, Democrats and the CHC will have to deliver on Hispanic legislative priorities or risk becoming “a failed caucus” that disincentivizes Hispanics from voting.

“If we have the White House and Senate, we’re going to have to start delivering on priorities,” he said, using immigration reform and voting rights reform as examples.

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Gallego, as first vice chair, was slated to succeed Castro, but instead decided to run to head Bold PAC, the CHC’s campaign arm.

As Latino voters become a core element of the Democratic coalition, CHC members say they are going to remind their colleagues in Congress that those voters require motivation to head to the polls.

“There’s going to have to be a realization at a broader scale that if Latinos don’t get a win in Congress that you’re going to see Latinos stop voting,” said Gallego.