Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) has joined the Congressional Black Caucus, becoming the first Republican to do so since former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), the Lone Star State’s first black Republican in Congress, did not join.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who turned down the chance to join the CBC when he was a freshman House member along with West, also did not join this year.
Love was sworn in to the caucus with other members in a Tuesday ceremony; all of the new members are women. Attending were Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
The new chairman this year is Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who is mixed race yet identifies as African-American.
Butterfield said the CBC’s priorities for the 114th Congress are criminal justice reform, reducing poverty, safeguarding social safety net programs, creating educational opportunities, strengthening historically black colleges and universities, restoring section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and ensuring corporate diversity.
“The composition of our Caucus brings a diverse set of experiences and viewpoints to address the unique challenges of African American communities. Every day, members of this Caucus go beyond their constitutional duties to lead in their communities. They are making a difference in the lives of millions of people. My colleagues are smart and intelligent legislators. Each of them was elected to Congress because they prepared themselves, served their community, and knocked down barriers,” Butterfield said at the ceremony.
“I am also mindful that we were elected to Congress because great men and women, over the past 150-plus years got their hands dirty (some gave their lives) to empower future generations. During the Reconstruction and Post-reconstruction era, 20 African Americans served in Congress. They advocated for educating the children of the former slaves. They advocated for building black high schools and colleges. They advocated for jobs and decency. They even sought to make it a federal crime to lynch.”
The chairman said the caucus “must tell the full story – for many black Americans, they are not even close to realizing the American dream.”
“Depending on where they live, an economic depression hangs over their head, and it is burdening their potential and the potential of their children. Black America is in a state of emergency today as it was at the turn of the century,” Butterfield continued.
“…America is not working for many African Americans and we, as the Congressional Black Caucus, have an obligation to fight harder and smarter in the next Congress to help repair the damage.”
Love has been getting backlash from some on the right for voting for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) instead of an insurgent challenger this week.
In 2012, she said she would join the CBC to “take that thing apart from the inside out.”
“It’s demagoguery. They sit there and ignite emotions and ignite racism when there isn’t,” Love told the Deseret News back then. “They use their positions to instill fear. Hope and change is turned into fear and blame. Fear that everybody is going lose everything and blaming Congress for everything instead of taking responsibility.”
She wasn’t on record with similar statements about the CBC during her successful 2014 run.