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Congressional Hispanic Caucus considering ousting leader over sudden staff exodus

FILE: Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-CA) speaks alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after a tour of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach during press conference at the Port of Long Beach on Jan. 11, 2022 in Long Beach, Calif. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) are considering ousting Rep. Nanette Barragán, Democrat of California, as their leader after she fired the group's executive director on Thursday, multiple people familiar with the situation tell CBS News.

Barragán, 46, represents parts of South Los Angeles and areas around the Port of Los Angeles and has served 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 staff for CHC members raised concerns about Barragan's ability to lead the caucus on Thursday, hours after she fired the caucus's executive director, Jacky Usyk, who had been on the job for less than three weeks. 

Usyk had no comment when reached Thursday evening. Several other caucus staffers, including the communications director and policy experts, have departed since Barragán took over. 

Usyk's departure was the final straw for some CHC members worried that the turnover leaves the caucus rudderless at a time when a Republican-led House is diving into issues including immigration and education — key concerns for voters in the predominantly Latino districts represented by caucus members. 

"At this point George Santos has more people working for him than Nanette," one CHC member commented. 

Barragán did not reply to text messages sent by CBS News seeking comment, but in a statement emailed by her spokesman, she said, "Jacky is no longer with the CHC. We wish her well in her future endeavors. We do not comment on internal confidential personnel matters."

Some of the concerned lawmakers said they were seeking a meeting as soon as Thursday night with Barragán about the staff exodus, but it was unclear if it could happen, since House members are leaving Washington for a two-week recess. 

"Without institutional knowledge/memory, the CHC will suffer. I guess Nanette doesn't value that at all," a CHC-member lawmaker said.

"She has a hard time keeping staff in her personal office. Those concerns seem real given that all CHC staff left (because they did not want to work for her), and CHC is currently understaffed," the lawmaker added. "The staff that are there are unhappy, so concerns about whether the effectiveness of the caucus is hurt by the way she treats staff is real."

The lawmakers and staffers who commented for this article requested anonymity out of concern for maintaining relationships with Barragán. 

Barragán has developed a reputation as a tough boss who struggles to keep staff, a perception that's been amplified on a social media account popular with congressional staffers that first reported Barragán's decision to fire Usyk. 

"Nanette fired the ED today," said a post on the Instagram account @dear_white_staffers Thursday afternoon. The account tracks Hill staff gossip and workplace concerns, especially among minorities who struggle to advance through the ranks. 

An analysis by the congressional-tracking website LegiStorm found Barragánhad one of the top-10 worst staff turnover rates in 2021, an already tough year for retention given the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under Hispanic Caucus rules, members may vote to impeach Barragán and call for her removal. If she is pushed out, Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Democrat of N.Y. is 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.

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