“Our only question is simply — they are identifying districts, identifying potential candidates, but what do you have in place to make this a reality? Who do you have on board in-house that is assigned to this particular task?” CHC Chairman Charles Gonzalez asked.
The Texas Democrat said it is important to have someone in place whom CHC members are familiar with because it will allow for a good working relationship. Gonzalez also said that so far he is encouraged by the conversations he has had with Israel and that the CHC is just starting to engage with the new chairman.
Rep. Henry Cuellar said the DCCC’s relationship with CHC members is significantly improved from the days when then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) ran the committee. Emanuel and other Democratic leaders supported vulnerable Democrats who sided with Republicans on anti-immigrant legislation.
In November 2007, for example, the CHC boycotted a procedural vote on a Democratic tax bill that was a high priority for leadership. The move prompted an angry exchange between Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Baca, who helped spearhead the boycott to protest Democratic support for a Republican English-only proposal.
And CHC members were furious in 2005 when Emanuel and other Democratic leaders urged vulnerable Frontline Democrats to vote for a GOP proposal designed to crack down on illegal immigrants.
The tension between the DCCC and the Congressional Black Caucus has no shorter a history, including a long-simmering disagreement over dues. The DCCC has long complained that CBC members are slow to pay dues into the campaign fund, and CBC members have responded by arguing that the dues structure fails to take into account that many CBC members’ districts are less affluent.
To make amends with the CBC, Israel created a Member Advisory Board that will be chaired by the most senior black member in the House, Assistant Leader James Clyburn (S.C.). Israel has also pledged to rework the DCCC’s Member point system to address the fundraising issue.
Several CBC lawmakers said that while Israel’s overtures are well-taken, it hasn’t allayed all of their concerns.
“It’s still lingering, but it didn’t start with Israel,” Clyburn said. “It’s been there for a long time.”
Clyburn said Israel “may not have appreciated the extent to which those bruised feelings exist.”
“But we’re going to work [through] all of that,” he said, adding that Israel now has a clear picture of the relationship history.
Rep. Chaka Fattah said he had also observed Israel reaching out to black lawmakers and the African-American community.
The Pennsylvania Democrat said he accompanied Israel on Thursday to a meeting with African-American newspaper owners at which Israel talked about changes he was making at the DCCC that were designed address complaints CBC members have had with the group in the past.
“He was saying to them that they are going to be in the loop,” Fattah said.
Cuellar said Israel is doing a “good job” on outreach to the CHC, but he acknowledged that as with CBC members, there is always concern about Members being able to pay their dues. The Texas Democrat has already fulfilled his $300,000 in DCCC dues.