The Congressional Black Caucus is blocking membership to Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida who has tried to join the organization, a source familiar with the CBC's plans told BuzzFeed News.
It’s been six months since the members who won election in 2020 were inducted into the CBC, a powerful and nominally nonpartisan group of Black lawmakers in Congress. Donalds, who won election for the first time last year, has not been included in that group.
The Florida representative’s office said Donalds has talked to at least three members of the CBC about joining the group, whose members are now at the forefront of police reform talks and responsible for highlighting the racial inequities around COVID-19. He’s not received an answer and the likelihood of that happening a quarter way into the 117th Congress looks bleak.
“Congressman Donalds has expressed interest in joining the CBC, but has yet to receive an official invitation,” said a Donalds aide. “If given, he’d gladly accept.” The CBC did not respond to questions about the status of Donalds’ membership, or why he was not being let in.
The snub highlights the divide between Democrats and their Republican counterparts since Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol during the certification of Joe Biden’s presidency.
Some Democrats have refused to partner with Republicans on legislation since the mob attack, especially if they voted against accepting the election results. Donalds was one of the Republicans who voted to deny Biden’s win.
The caucus has a history with Black Republican members of Congress. Sen. Tim Scott, arguably the most powerful Black Republican lawmaker right now, declined an invitation from the group in 2010 when he was first elected to Congress as a member of the House of Representatives.
Former representative Mia Love of Utah initially vowed to dismantle the group in 2012, claiming the group of Black lawmakers “ignite racism.” She reversed course and joined in 2015. No Republicans are currently CBC members.
Donalds has talked openly about his interest in joining the CBC, telling Politico in February that he wanted to change the organization’s liberal dominance. Last year, Burgess Owens, who won Love’s old seat in November, told the Wall Street Journal he had no plans to join the CBC should he win his race.
It’s a quagmire that leaders of the Tri-Caucus — which is made up of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus — face when members of the opposite party want to align themselves with members of the same racial background. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s bylaws exclude non-Democrats. There was a messy fallout in 2017 when the caucus denied membership to former representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida. The same rules are still in play.
“Per Congressional Hispanic Caucus bylaws, all Democratic Members of Congress of Hispanic descent are eligible for CHC membership,” according to a CHC spokesperson.