The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) will allow Reps.-elect Allen West (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC) to join the overwhelmingly Democratic Capitol Hill organization if they so choose.
CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) says that "membership in the Congressional Black Caucus has never been restricted to Democrats." Lee adds that West and Scott "will be welcomed" if they want to join the organization.
Scott is on the fence about joining. West says he'll sign up.
Voters haven't elected a black Republican to Congress since Rep. JC Watts (R-OK) served four terms, retiring in early 2003. Watts, who served in the Republican House leadership, declined to join the CBC.
But there is precedent for African American Republicans to join the CBC. Former Rep. Gary Franks (R-CT) and Del. Melvin Evans (R-VI) were both CBC members.
The CBC has denied admission to two white Congressmen who represent black constituencies: Reps. Pete Stark (D-CA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN).
In an interview with WOR radio, West said that he meets "all of the criteria and it's so important that we break down this monolithic voice that continues to talk about victimization and dependency in the black community."