GOP Congressmen-elect Allen West (Fla.) and Tim Scott (S.C.), the party's first black House members since Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003, have been offered membership into the Congressional Black Caucus, a body currently made up solely of Democratic members.
"Membership in the Congressional Black Caucus has never been restricted to Democrats," the group said in an email to its members Tuesday, perhaps referring to Virgin Islands Delegate Melvin Evans and Rep. Gary Franks of Connecticut, two Republicans who once sat on the assembly. "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."
This clarifies a rather complex discussion that had revolved around the incoming class of legislators and whether or not their Tea Party platforms would be welcome in such a left-leaning delegation.
CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee recently explained the situation to the Economist, saying that they wouldn't determine membership based on party affiliation, but also expressing some skepticism as to whether black Republicans would embrace their "agenda," which she described as "lifting people out of poverty, providing middle-class tax cuts, supporting climate-change legislation."
Shortly after winning his election, West railed against "liberal progressives" -- many of whom might hold agenda concerns similar to the ones mentioned above -- and what he called their tendency to play the "race card."
"So I think that the -- the liberal progressives saw the strength of the grassroots movement that we call the Tea Party, which stands for 'taxed enough already' and they tried to turn against it," Rep.-elect Allen West (R-Fla.) told Fox News's Sean Hannity. "And the No.1 thing that you always try to do to silence an opponent in the United States of America is to call someone a racist."
Although they are distinctly different groups, such comments may be particularly divisive considering that the NAACP -- a group that West has called a "liberal racist enabler" -- decided to pursue an active investigation into supposed racist undertones in the Tea Party movement.
But that hasn't stopped West from announcing his intentions to join to CBC:
"I'm not gonna ask for permission or whatever," he said in an interview with Florida's WOR radio last week. "I think I meet all of the criteria and it's so important that we break down this 'monolithic voice' that continues to talk about victimization and dependency in the black community."
Tim Scott has not yet said whether he'll accept the CBC's olive branch.