Thanks, but No Thanks: Watts Declines CBC Invitation

Article excerpt

Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma has always set his own agenda. A true believer in individual initiative and personal responsibility, the freshman Republican supports most of the GOP Contract With America. Already separated ideologically from the overwhelmingly Democratic Congressional Black Caucus, Watts is maintaining his physical distance as well. He recently decided not to join the group.

In explaining his decision, Watts cites the small right flank he and Rep. Gary Franks (R-Conn.) hold as the only African American Republicans in Congress. What's the point, Watts asks, of joining a body where they would be outvoted 40-2 on nearly every issue?

Watts, who represents a district that is 69% Democratic and 87% white, insists he was not elected because of the color of his skin or party affiliation. And, he says, it is not his intention to be either pro-CBC or anti-CBC. "That plays right into the hands of the Beltway press that wants to 'cynicize' every issue," says Watts. "They [the press] don't give us [Franks and Watts] the flexibility to say what we want, how we want to. Instead, joining puts us in a very difficult situation where it looks like it's the black Republicans versus the black Democrats." According to a spokesperson, Franks is, and intends to remain, a member of the CBC.

Watts, whose views fall in the moderate-to-conservative spectrum, recently talked about the need for welfare reform. He also discussed the importance of cutting taxes to create new businesses and how his opinion on affirmative action differs from that of other GOPers. …