Some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) are considering ousting caucus leader Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., after she fired the group’s executive director on Thursday, multiple people familiar with the situation told CBS News.
Barragan, 46, represents parts of South Los Angeles and the areas surrounding the Port of Los Angeles and has been serving since 2017. She became CHC chair in January, leading a group that now boasts a record 42 members serving in the House and Senate, all of them Democrats.
Several of those lawmakers and senior CHC member staff raised concerns about Barragan’s ability to lead the caucus Thursday, hours after she fired caucus executive director Jackie Usyk, who had been on the job for less than three weeks.
Usyk had no comment when reached Thursday night. Several other faction staff, including the communications director and policy experts, have left since Barragan took office.
Usyk’s departure was the final straw for some CHC members worried that turnover is leaving the caucus without a rudder at a time when the Republican-led chamber is tackling issues including immigration and education — key issues for voters in the predominantly Latino districts represented by members of the caucus.
“There are more people working for George Santos than Nanette at this point,” commented one CHC member.
Barragan did not respond to text messages sent by CBS News seeking comment, but in a statement emailed by her spokeswoman, she said, “Jackie is no longer with CHC. We wish her well in her future endeavours. We do not comment on internal confidential personnel matters.”
Some of the concerned lawmakers said they were seeking a meeting with Barragan Thursday night about the staff exodus, but it was unclear if that might happen as House members leave Washington for a two-week recess.
“Without institutional knowledge/memory, CHC will suffer. I guess Nanette doesn’t appreciate that at all,” said a lawmaker who is a CHC member.
“She has a hard time keeping staff in her private office. These fears seem real given that all CHC staff have left (because they did not want to work for her) and CHC is now understaffed,” the lawmaker added. “The staff there are unhappy, so the concerns about whether the way she handles staff will hurt the effectiveness of the council are real.”
Lawmakers and staffers who commented on this article asked to remain anonymous out of concern for maintaining their relationship with Barragán.
Barragan has earned a reputation as a tough boss who struggles to retain staff, a perception reinforced by a social media account popular among congressional staffers that first reported Barragan’s decision to fire Usyk.
“Nanette fired the manager today” – said a post on the Instagram account @dear_white_staffers on Thursday afternoon. The account tracks Hill employee gossip and workplace issues, particularly among minorities struggling to move up the corporate ladder.
An analysis by LegiStorm, a congressional-tracking website, found that Barragan was one of the top 10 worst turnover rates in 2021, already difficult to maintain in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Hispanic Caucus rules, members can vote to impeach Barragan and demand her removal. If she is pushed out, Caucus Vice Chair Adriana Espaillat, D-New York, would be next in line to lead the group, people familiar with the process said.
Espaillat, who represents parts of Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights and the Bronx, did not immediately respond to text messages sent Thursday night.