Only Going To Get Stronger

A growing group of Latino Republicans on Capitol Hill has spent the last six months trying to send a message — the other CHC is on the rise.

Reps. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) are co-chairs of the 18-member, all-GOP Congressional Hispanic Conference — not to be confused with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Democratic group that has grown into a key power center inside that party since its founding in 1976.

Now Gonzales and Díaz-Balart are hoping to do the same for their group, making it a more muscular player inside the House Republican Conference.

Ready to flex: The group’s membership is at an all-time high, and its influence is growing thanks to swing-district freshmen members like Reps. Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) and Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.). Gonzales told Huddle in an interview that while Hispanic Republicans “really haven’t kind of voted as a bloc or to endorse things” historically, he expects that to change.

“The Congressional Hispanic Conference is only going to grow, it’s only going to get stronger, it’s only going to be more vocal,” Gonzales said, adding that he tells other GOP members, “This group will be your greatest advocates. And clearly, it can be your greatest detractors if we’re not on board.”

At the Smithsonian: Plans for a Latino museum within the Smithsonian Institution have been in the works for years now. But a preliminary exhibit drew the ire of Hispanic Conference members who complained that it depicted Latinos in a negative light. That exhibit prompted threats to withhold support for museum funding and a meeting last month with Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III to smooth those threats over.

“We’re not here to tell them what to do. But I am not going to stand by while Latinos in the United States are portrayed as defectors, traitors, cowards, victims,” Díaz-Balart said in an interview last week. “I will not allow our communities to be insulted, and neither will the other members of the Hispanic Conference.”

Mayorkas impeachment: The question of impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pits two conference priorities against one another — seeing Latinos in positions of power and securing the nation’s southern border.

The clash has put the conference’s leadership undecided — both Gonzales and Díaz-Balart told Huddle they want to wait and see if the impeachment inquiry advances before they say if they’ll support it. (Though GOP leaders remain short of the votes to impeach Mayorkas, House conservatives continue to pursue it.)

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” Gonzales said.

Future plans: More broadly, Gonzales said, the Hispanic Conference is aiming to think and act more strategically, using its leverage inside the GOP’s four-seat majority to advance its aims — and potentially add to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s headaches. That played out earlier this year during debate on a GOP border security bill, where Gonzales won concessions on asylum language.

While past fights along these lines were led by “self-minded individuals,” he added, “I think you’re gonna see us being more organized.”

In the campaign realm, Gonzales has been working with the conservative Hispanic Leadership Trust, a political action committee, to fundraise for Latino candidates and lawmakers. Outside groups, he said, “are going to help Hispanic Republicans win races and stay in office” — and keep the conference’s clout on the rise.

“I am 100 percent committed to doing that,” said Gonzales.

Full story from POLITICO Huddle on August 7, 2023.