WASHINGTON (AP) — The liberal Congressional Black Caucus has sworn in its first Republican member in more than a decade, welcoming newly elected congressman Allen West of Florida at a ceremony Wednesday.

West and Tim Scott of South Carolina were elected in November as the first black Republicans in Congress since former Rep. J.C. Watts left eight years ago.

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While Scott declined to join the caucus, West pushed for membership, saying he wants to try to steer the group away from what he calls failed social welfare programs and big-government solutions.

A strident conservative, West is the first Republican to join the caucus since Rep. Gary Franks of Connecticut lost his seat in 1997.

The 43-member caucus also elected Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver as its new chairman.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.