WASHINGTON -- The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) on Wednesday released its congressional scorecard, giving Democrats high marks for their support on issues that affect Hispanics.
House Republicans received a dismal 8.4 percent approval rating versus 83 percent for Democrats, the scorecard showed.
The NHLA, founded in 1991, comprises 31 U.S. Latino organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund(MALDEF), U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and National Associatio nof Latino Elected & Appointed Officials (NALEO).
The tally ranks members of Congress according to the votes they cast in both chambers on subjects of importance to Latinos, such as education, civil rights, economic development and health.
The results reflect a Congress deeply divided along partisan lines, Larry Gonzalez, NALEO's Washington director, said in a telephone interview.
Congress, he added, must be educated on the issues of interest to the Hispanic community and take into account its growth in differentparts of the country.
Among Republicans, the highest marks went to Sen. Lincoln Chafee(Rhode Island), with 55 percent, followed by Sen. Arlen Specter(Pennsylvania), with 45 percent.
No other Republican, however, received a score higher than 36 percent, while right-wing stalwarts such as Don Nickles (Oklahoma)and Jesse Helms (North Carolina) did not receive any positive marks.
Among Democrats, the lowest approval rating of 36 percent went to Sen. Zell Miller (Georgia), while the highest - a perfect 100 - went to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (South Dakota).
All three Republican House representatives of Hispanic descent -Florida's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Texas'Henry Bonilla - each received approval ratings of 18 percent, the NHLA said.
Meanwhile, the voting records of two of the House's three leaders - Texan Republicans Dick Armey and Tom DeLay - earned them NHLA ratings of zero.
House Minority leader Richard Gephardt said he was pleased with his 91 percent approval rating.
When it comes to choosing between helping out Hispanic families or working on behalf of special-interest groups, the NHLA report shows that a majority of Republicans voted against Latinos, Gephardt said.
Republicans "can talk all they want" about the need to include Hispanics in the political process, but their votes hardly reflect their rhetoric, Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said.
Menendez is vice-chairman of the Democratic Caucus and Congress'highest-ranking Hispanic.
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