Hispanic Caucus Seeks Peace

Posted February 9, 2007 at 6:46pm

Prompted by complaints from female lawmakers over perceived chauvinism, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus agreed Thursday that it will hold a formal discussion this week to address those concerns and how the organization can improve internal relations.

“We’re all going to discuss it,” said Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), who chairs the group. “All of us want to come to consensus.”

Hispanic lawmakers, including Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), raised those criticisms following Baca’s elevation to the chairmanship in November. Sanchez had questioned procedures used in that election, and she recently reiterated her concerns when she resigned from the group in late January.

In addition, Sanchez has asserted that Baca made critical remarks about her to California state lawmakers late last year, an accusation that Baca has denied.

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas), who attended Thursday’s meeting, said next week’s discussion will not address that disagreement, stating that the argument is of a “personal nature between two Members.”

“There is no legitimate place or role for us” in that dispute, Gonzalez added.

The Texas lawmaker said he is, however, optimistic about the outcome of the scheduled conversation, stating that he expects to address questions such as: “Are there grievances or suggestions to make the caucus more responsive to the individual needs of the caucus?”

“This is not one-dimensional, it’s multifaceted,” he added, noting that the caucus includes lawmakers from an array of backgrounds, geographic regions and nationalities.

“The task before us is to come together in good faith, have a frank and honest discussion … and gain strength from it,” Gonzalez said.

But Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), who did not attend last week’s meeting, noting that she had a prior engagement with a group of parliamentarians from Mexico, remained skeptical that the discussion would resolve any problems within the caucus.

“We as women do have valid concerns,” Solis said. “Listening is one thing, but change is more important. … The caucus should evolve.”

Solis said she has not determined whether she, too, will leave the CHC, stating that she will wait to see the outcome of next week’s meeting.

“It’s going to take a lot of meetings before we see any changes,” she said.

Although Baca said Sanchez would be invited to attend the discussion, a Sanchez spokeswoman could not confirm Friday that Sanchez had received notice of the meeting, or whether she would attend.

Members in attendance at Thursday’s meeting said election-related complaints were not discussed, and Baca, who has asserted that the election was in compliance with the caucus’ bylaws, said he did not expect the issue to be raised at the pending discussion.