TriCaucus Members Boost Coordination

Posted January 26, 2007 at 6:25pm

Seeking to strengthen their influence in the new House majority, Democratic leaders of the TriCaucus — a coalition of Hispanic, black and Asian Pacific lawmakers — will meet this week to formulate a coordinated strategy for the 110th Congress.

While the organizations — which include the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus — have coordinated in previous years, CHC Chairman Joe Baca (D-Calif.) said the groups will intensify their efforts, including aligning their agendas in the new cycle.

“I’m really focused on taking us to another level,” Baca said, adding that the CHC also will expand its efforts to work with national organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Council of La Raza, both of which are nonprofit groups.

CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) added in a separate interview that the harmonization effort also will help to ensure that TriCaucus priorities are viewed as priorities on the overall Democratic agenda.

“We intend to do more coordination,” Kilpatrick said, later adding that the leaders will discuss improving communications among lawmakers as well as staff. “We think that’s going to be critical as we work in the Democratic Caucus and in the entire House of Representatives.”

Noting that the organizations count significant memberships — the CBC itself tops 40 lawmakers — Kilpatrick added: “That’s a nice bloc of votes.”

In addition to advancing outreach efforts, Kilpatrick said the CBC would like to see significant attention given to the Iraq War and funding issues, as well as ongoing efforts to restore the Gulf Coast from damage caused in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.

CAPAC Chairman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) also will seek attention for issues including immigration reform and disparities in minority health care as well as encouraging the full Caucus to make racial diversity in committee, leadership and personal office staffs a priority.

While the TriCaucus seeks to raise its profile in the House, however, one lawmaker, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), has rekindled his efforts to ban the caucuses formed on the basis of race or ethnicity.

A Tancredo spokesman acknowledged Friday that while a letter his boss sent to the House Administration Committee to encourage a prohibition on those caucuses did not identify individual groups, the proposal targets both the CHC and CBC.

Spokesman Carlos Espinosa said Tancredo’s letter to newly installed House Administration Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) is the same letter that Tancredo previously sent to then-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who served as chairman of the committee for part of the 109th Congress.

But this time, Tancredo’s letter comes after recent reports that Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who represents a majority-black district, was ineligible to join the CBC because he is white.

In his letter, Tancredo — who is considering a run for the White House in 2008 — says that “it is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a color-blind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based on race and restrict their membership based on race. … It is disgraceful that more than a half-century after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, an organization sanctioned by the U.S. Congress maintains a policy of racial exclusivity.”

Espinosa said his boss realizes that the rule change he’s seeking is not likely to happen but that “with the Democrats in control we would hope that we would get a response from them. One of their biggest issues is civil rights and equality. … Well how can you sanction an organization that acknowledges that they only allow one particular race and exclude everyone else?”

Kilpatrick declined to comment on Tancredo’s letter through a spokeswoman. A spokesman for the CHC did not respond to a request for comment.