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Lujan Grisham wrestles with admitting GOP Rep. to Congressional Hispanic Caucus

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, co-chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, agreed Thursday to accept a Republican into the all-Democratic group after her GOP House colleagues complained that the caucus was exclusionary.

Lujan Grisham, who is giving up the Albuquerque-based 1st Congressional District seat to run for governor of New Mexico in 2018, found herself embroiled in Capitol Hill brouhaha this week after Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, complained that the group was excluding him from joining despite his ethnicity.

“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus should not discriminate against any American of Hispanic descent,” Curbelo said in a statement. “The CHC should focus on uniting America’s Hispanic community in support of issues like compassionate immigration reform, economic growth and opportunity, and better education.”

A report in Politico on Wednesday said the Hispanic Caucus tabled the issue last week after outcry from some members who complained about Curbelo trying to join,  calling it a political ploy on his part to improve his reelection chances.

Lujan Grisham and other members of the CHC have said Curbelo’s exclusion wasn’t due to his being a Republican, but his opposition to some CHC priorities such as comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM Act for young people who were brought to the country illegally.

But the group could soon relent. Lujan Grisham said the matter will be put to a vote of the Caucus early next week.

“I have been on the record to include Hispanic members of Congress from both parties and both chambers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Congressman Curbelo,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement to the Journal Thursday night. “Today, our caucus sent a letter inviting both Representative Curbelo and (Florida Republican Rep.) Ileana) Ros-Lehtinen to join our effort advocating for Hispanic communities.  But regardless of my personal opinion, this is a caucus matter that could be voted on as early as next week.”

Politico also reported that CHC members “also have concerns about letting Curbelo attend their private meetings, which are often focused on strategies aimed at rebutting anti-immigration efforts by Republicans in Congress and the administration.”

A position statement by the CHC said in part “Members have been clear that this is not about party, it is about being consistent with the values and issues of the CHC. We support the Dream Act, we support increased access to healthcare through the ACA, we voice our vocal support for the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, we want a tax plan that helps the middle class. The CHC is on the front lines of protecting the Hispanic community from the Trump Administration’s harmful policies and putting forth productive, common-sense legislation that lifts up our community.”

New Mexico Republicans, eager to take Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Lujan Grisham down a notch, criticized her role in the controversy.

“Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision not to allow one of her colleagues to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus because he is a Republican is sad, disappointing and extremely divisive,” said Ryan Cangiolosi, chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico. “New Mexicans deserve a leader who will unite people to make our state a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Lujan Grisham’s refusal to work with a Republican lawmaker shows that she would advance a partisan agenda as governor instead of reaching across the aisle on behalf of all New Mexico families.”