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DeFazio Wins Leadership's Nod in Fight With Grijalva for Democratic Panel Slot

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
DeFazio is fighting to be top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee/

Brent Wilkes, vice chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, said his coalition of nearly three dozen Latino civil rights and public policy organizations would be making calls to key lawmakers in the lead-up to the caucus meeting to shore up last-minute support.

The organization, along with other groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, hail Grijalva’s liberal politics — he is chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — and stress the importance of having another ranking member at the Democratic leadership table who is a person of color and a staunch advocate for an immigration rewrite.

“You can’t just talk the talk if you really want to be the party that’s known for its achievements on diversity issues,” Wilkes said.

DeFazio voted in favor of a 2005 immigration overhaul bill backed by President George W. Bush, Grijalva’s advocates point out. At that time, he said on the floor that he was not enamored with the entire measure, which was never signed into law, but supported an opportunity to enhance border security.

The handful of outside groups supporting Grijalva are also worried about DeFazio’s vote against a 2009 bill to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. The “cap and trade” bill, which passed the House but never was taken up in the Senate, was authored by Markey and Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.

While the race has aroused strong feelings among Democrats, Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings said he had no preference.

“I’ll work with both of them,” the Washington Republican said.

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