GOP Rep. Byron Donalds says that he's being blocked from joining the Congressional Black Caucus.
Donalds and his office have engaged with the CBC about joining the organization to no avail.
"My gut reaction is disappointment," the congressman told CBS affiliate WINK-TV.
GOP Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, a Black conservative, on Thursday said that he was being snubbed by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Donalds and his staff have contacted CBC members on multiple occasions since the congressman was first sworn into office in January, according to spokesman Harrison Fields, but their efforts were rebuffed.
"Since starting in Congress, our office and the congressman have engaged with several CBC members expressing his interest in joining, but all we've got is the cold shoulder," Fields said. "The sad reality is although the congressman and those in the CBC share the same race, the (R) behind his name disqualifies him from membership today."
On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News reported that a source with knowledge of the CBC's thinking indicated that the organization is blocking Donalds' membership.
In a response issued on Wednesday, a CBC spokesperson did not directly address the allegation that Donalds was being prevented from joining the organization, but raised the issue of members sharing the organization's "values."
"The Congressional Black Caucus remains committed to fighting for issues that support Black communities, including the police accountability bill, protecting voting rights, and a jobs bill that helps our communities," the spokesperson said. "We will work with those who share our values and priorities for the constituents we serve."
According to BuzzFeed, Donalds has reached out to at least three CBC members in seeking to join the organization.
He said that he was committed to crafting bipartisan legislation and also pointed out that he was a member of the Black caucus as a lawmaker in Florida's House of Representatives.
"My gut reaction is disappointment," the congressman told the Southwest Florida CBS affiliate WINK-TV. "I understand that there are going to be issues we're not going to agree on. But iron sharpens iron. And I think having those discussions are important. And it's unfortunate that it appears those aren't going to happen."
Donalds is one of two House Republicans currently in office, along with GOP Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah, who declined to join the CBC.
While the CBC has been overwhelmingly composed of Democrats since its founding in 1971, it has had Black Republican members in the past, including former Reps. Gary Franks of Connecticut, Allen West of Florida, and Mia Love of Utah, and former Del. Melvin Herbert Evans of the US Virgin Islands.
During a CNN interview on Thursday, Donalds said that he hadn't "heard much from the CBC" in recent months regarding his pending membership.
"I have a perspective being a 42-year-old Black man who's come up in America after a lot of the battles through the civil rights movement that I think would actually be helpful and a helpful perspective to the CBC," he said. "Whether they want to take advantage of that is really up to them."
In January, Donalds voted against certifying the results of President Joe Biden's electoral victory over former President Donald Trump, citing election changes made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I refuse to turn a blind eye to the fact that several states, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, neglected the oath of their constitution and the United States Constitution by their failure to follow their election laws," he said at the time.
When the congressman was pressed about whether his support of Trump made him incompatible with the mission of the CBC, Donalds disputed the notion and emphasized his individual record.
"Whatever the president said in the past has nothing to do with this discussion at all," he said. "As a black man in America, I'm allowed to have my own thoughts on who I choose to support and who I choose not to support."
He added: "This is whether the ideology of somebody who is conservative is welcome in the Congressional Black Caucus. It's really that simple."
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