In the past two months two prominent Republican leaders hosted national conferences to address what many call the Republican's Latino "problem." Former Speaker Newt Gingrich's group, The Americano, held its first Hispanic Conference in Washington DC in December and just this past week, former Governor Jeb Bush's first Hispanic Leadership Network Conference was held in Miami, Florida. They're both insisting that Republicans tone down the rhetoric their party has embraced vis a vis the Hispanic Community or risk losing the fastest growing voting bloc in America.
But their Latino "problem" lies not only in their Party's rhetoric but rather, and more importantly, in their Party's actions. Although we welcome national leaders like Gingrich and Bush trying to reach out to Hispanics in a more sensible tone, they aren't elected leaders, they answer to no constituents and aren't bound to represent their interests in Congress.
And therein lies their real problem: casting a vote speaks louder than the words you use to court one, and the actions that are being taken by Republicans in congress don't match the words or the tone that Bush and Gingrich would have them use.
Let's just look at the first two days of the 112th Congress. On day one, Representative Steve King introduced legislation to repeal the 14th amendment -- legislation that would create a second-class citizenry of American children. And, on day two, as part of the new rules that House Republicans passed to guide this session, they insisted on stripping delegates representing Puerto Rico and other US Territories of their voting rights -- a vote that deprived more than 4 million Hisapnic-American citizens of their official voice in congress.
Unfortunately, as we enter this, our third week of the legislative session, Republicans are poised to, once again, vote against the Hispanic community and its stated interests. They will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a historic piece of legislation whose repeal would disproportionately affect Latino families and do nothing to address Hispanic voter priorities.
The majority of Latino voters have consistently cited education, jobs, and health care as what they seek to change with their vote. In this past election 58% said education was their top concern, 54% said jobs and 51% said health care. And it's no wonder why: The need for higher educational attainment in our community is grave; Latinos' unemployment rate is higher than the national average and, as a community, we face unique health challenges.
Who are Republicans listening to when they prioritize repealing health care reform in lieu of improving our schools, creating jobs or providing access to health care? Not Latinos.
Sixteen million Latinos -- that's one-third of all Latinos in America -- will no longer gain access to affordable, quality health care if Republicans vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Fifty percent of Latinos who never had a primary care physician, will no longer be able to see one if Republicans vote to repeal it. And the majority of Hispanics, that could now receive preventive care to avoid conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, will have to watch their health deteriorate before seeking help.
Governor Bush made headlines when he stated that Republicans' ignoring the fastest growing voting bloc in America is "incredibly stupid" and Speaker Gingrich said that the Republican party "must pay substantial attention to the most rapidly growing single part of the country." Those are their words. This week, we'll see their Party's actions. If Republicans vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans will not only be ignoring Latinos, but the leaders in their Party that are warning them not to do so.
Congressman Charles A. Gonzalez (TX-20) is the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.