This week, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., was denied membership in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus even as it looks like he will be in another fight to hold onto his South Florida congressional seat.
Following up on his efforts back in January, on Monday, Curbelo wrote to U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-NM, to join the caucus which currently consists of only Democrats. Republican members of the caucus left it in the late 1990s due to policy differences, including how to deal with the Castro regime in Cuba. In 2003, Republican members formed the Congressional Hispanic Conference.
In his appeal to Lujan Grisham, Curbelo highlighted his work on the “Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act” which would keep much of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program giving younger illegal immigrants, often called DREAMers–those who entered the country before 2012 and who were 16 or younger when they entered–a path to citizenship.
Curbelo was denied membership and he weighed in on that denial on Thursday.
“It is truly shameful the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has decided to build a wall around the organization to exclude Hispanic-Americans who aren’t registered in the Democratic Party,” Curbelo said. “This sends a powerful and harmful message of discrimination, bigotry, and division. Unbelievably, petty partisan interests have led the CHC to formally endorse the segregation of American Hispanics. It is a dark day on Capitol Hill. However, this only strengthens my commitment to working with my colleagues on both sides to urgently seek a solution for young immigrants in the DACA Program.”
For her part, Lujan Grisham told Politico that Curbelo was denied membership due to his stances on other issues, including trying to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health-care law and backing tax reform.
“Many of those votes in this climate gave members who voted no, and maybe other members, pause about whether or not this was a good time for changing membership,” Lujan Grisham told Politico.
In the meantime, Curbelo is being targeted by the Democrats in 2018. Florida Politics reported this week that Public Policy Polling (PPP) found Curbelo is in trouble in his South Florida district with 46 percent of voters there disapproving of him while 37 percent approved of him.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is clearly looking at targeting Curbelo again. This week, the DCCC listed Curbelo’s seat as part of its “Majority Maker” districts as they look to flip the House from Republicans in 2018.
In the meantime, national pundits are starting to point to Curbelo as one of the more endangered Republicans in Congress. The Cook Political Report downgraded his race from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up” on Friday.
“Curbelo impressed in 2016, winning a second term by 12 points while Hillary Clinton carried this 69 percent Latino district by 16 points,” noted David Wasserman from the Cook Political Report. “But Curbelo also had the luxury of running against Democrat Joe Garcia, who was disgraced by an absentee ballot scandal. And despite his push for a bipartisan immigration reform bill, Curbelo’s recent votes in favor of the GOP’s healthcare and tax bills give Democrats fodder to tie him to Trump.
“The Democratic favorite is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a non-profit consultant who took 46 percent in a 2016 state Senate race that overlapped with much of FL-26,” Wasserman added. “She raised $177,000 last quarter and has a long way to catch up to Curbelo’s $1.3 million, but Democrats are encouraged that they flipped a nearby state senate district in a September special election. No Republican running for reelection represents a more pro-Clinton district than Curbelo. He’s in for another tough race.”