O the heels of the abrupt resignation of California Rep. Loretta Sanchez last month, bad blood still flows in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Representative Sanchez said she was leaving the group because CHC chair and fellow Californian Joe Baca was disrespectful of her and dismissive of the views and concerns of the female members, a charge Representative Baca strenuously denies.
"I don't think this is a very good atmosphere to get anything done and this has damaged our credibility," says one Sunbelt caucus member. "We have been trying hard to be taken seriously as a group within the House, and it's not going to happen with him."
Some representatives on the now-21-member group say privately they support Representative Sanchez's claims, and are thinking of leaving to form their own group.
But another member who supports Representative Baca scoffs at that notion. "I'd like to see where are they going to go, where are they going to get the money that we all pool together to have a caucus, where are they going to get any office space and everything else that goes with it. The original allegations are ridiculous and talking about leaving is even more ridiculous."
Those close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say she is aware of the controversy, but does not see this as affecting her relationship with the Hispanic members of Congress. "This is very unfortunate, but she gets along very well with them and she is concentrating on finding common ground on the issues that are of concern to the [Hispanic] community and to getting things done in this legislative session that are beneficial to Hispanics," a senior aide says.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama is receiving less-than-favorable press from Hispanic leaders who say he hasn't really explained two worrisome votes in the last session. He voted for legislation authorizing construction of a wall along a portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, and for a resolution to establish English as a "national unifying language." Senator Obama has said that he voted for those items as part of a "larger strategy," but hasn't elaborated beyond that. He told Chicago television reporter Rafael Romo that "you will find that there is no greater friend of the Latino community [than me]." Beyond that, the Illinois senator has spoken very little on the subject, and the GOP has seized on this.
"This is an example of the kind of hypocrisy coming from the Democrats. They don't care. They tell the Latino community what it wants to hear and then they do something else," Republican National Committee spokesperson Hessy Fernandez told Hispanic Business. "Immigration reform wasn't even on the Democrats' 100-hour agenda."
Another Democratic presidential candidate, albeit one getting fewer headlines, is getting some plaudits from one Beltway observer. "On a national level, should, as expected, the war in Iraq and U.S. foreign policy remain as major issues in the campaign," says pollster John Zogby, "don't rule out someone with strong foreign policy credentials...[like]...New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, moving into the upper tiers." Currently, Governor Richardson is polling in the single digits. The former U.N. ambassador, congressman, and Clinton administration official recently delivered a major foreign policy speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C. He opined that the Bush administration foreign policy is guided more by "wishful thinking than by reality." For more on Governor Richardson's historic move, see "Pondering the Presidency," March Issue 2007.
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