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House Black Caucus invites 2 new GOP African-Americans; one balks

From Deirdre Walsh, CNN Congressional Producer
  • Congressional Black Caucus is a traditionally left-leaning group
  • Caucus chair said 2 new black Republicans would be welcomed
  • GOP Rep.-elect Tim Scott indicates he would decline
  • Rep.-elect Allen West says he intends to join the black caucus

Washington (CNN) -- The chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday that two African-American Republicans elected to Congress last week were welcome to join the group, but one of the new members-elect -- Tim Scott of South Carolina -- indicated he would decline.

"I grew up in an environment where we were just very much integrated, and life worked out really well," Scott told reporters Tuesday. "I think the best for America is finding a way to fuse all of our communities together and erase all those lines that separate us."

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who chairs the Black Caucus, said in a statement that membership in the traditionally left-leaning group "has never been restricted to Democrats."

"Should either of the two African-American Republicans recently elected to the House of Representatives request membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, they will be welcomed," Lee's statement said.

Rep.-elect Allen West of Florida, the other incoming black Republican, told CNN on Sunday that he intended to join the CBC.

Scott, who was tapped by House GOP leaders to serve on the Republican transition team, signaled he might be interested in the new seat at the Republican leadership table created for a representative of the incoming freshman class.

"Certainly I am going to keep my eyes open and see what happens," Scott said, adding he would "get back home tonight and figure out what I'm going to do by tomorrow or Thursday and starting working towards it or start working for someone else."

Scott argued his class should wield some real power because of its numbers, adding: "I think we should play an important role, a prominent role."

Endorsed by the Tea Party in his campaign, Scott was noncommittal about joining the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, saying: "I don't know much about it, but certainly l support the Tea Party platform."

He downplayed the importance of congressional caucuses, calling them "simply optional at this point."

In addition, Scott said he supported Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling over Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann of Minnesota for the No. 4 House GOP leadership post, saying Hensarling has been actively seeking support from new members while he had yet to hear from Bachmann.

Another incoming freshman supported by the Tea Party, Republican Rep.-elect Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, also said Tuesday that he was supporting Hensarling and was not planning to join the Tea Party caucus that Bachmann founded earlier this year.