Progressive Democrat Rep. Mondaire Jones and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday condemned Republican opposition to the Democrat-driven push to make Washington, D.C. a state as "bigotry" and "racist trash" -- with Jones touching off an uproar on the House floor that ended with his statement being withdrawn.
The Jones exchange in particular highlighted the bitter tensions underpinning the debate over the Washington, D.C, Statehood Act.
In a floor speech, the progressive freshman took aim at Georgia GOP Rep. Jody Hice, who argued last month that "DC would be the only state -- the only state -- without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill,” and Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton’s contrast last year between D.C. and a “well-rounded, working class state” like Wyoming.
“Mr. Speaker, I’ve had enough of my colleagues racist insinuations that somehow the people of D.C. are incapable or unworthy of our democracy,” the New York lawmaker said.
“I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word ‘white,’” he said in a mocking reference to Cotton’s remarks.
“One of my House colleagues said D.C. shouldn’t be a state because the district doesn’t have a landfill,” Jones said. “My goodness, with all the racist trash they have brought to this debate I can see where they’re worried about having a place to put it.”
He added: “There is no good faith argument for disenfranchising over 700,000 people, most of whom are people of color.”
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who, in an earlier speech, accused Congress of trying to “take Maryland’s land from it” with D.C. statehood and warned of an “uncontrolled mob” like the protests outside the White House last summer showing up at the new D.C. border, asked for Jones to agree to have his remarks stricken from the record, Forbes reported.
Then after several minutes of heated back and forth on parliamentary procedure, Jones said “you have my consent to withdraw” — but continued that Republicans “fear that white supremacist politics won’t work anywhere in America,” Forbes reported.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who sat behind Jones during the exchange told Forbes that Harris objected to the content of Jones’ speech, specifically “something that he said that rubbed Harris the wrong way.”
A spokesperson for Jones told Forbes the lawmaker was “simply calling out GOP opposition to D.C. statehood for what it is: racist trash,” and that he acceded to GOP demands to “avoid an unnecessary vote,” adding: “he stands by what he said.”
In a tweet late Thursday morning, Jones defended his stance in favor of Washington, D.C. statehood as “a racial justice issue.”
“More than 712,000 Americans, most of whom are Black and brown, are denied their say in our democracy simply because they call D.C. home. #DCStatehood is a racial justice issue. Today, I proudly voted for the Washington, D.C. Admission Act to finally end this injustice,” he tweeted.
According to Fox News correspondent Chad Pergram, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also said that GOP opposition to the statehood bill “has taken a rather dark turn,” and that “one member of the minority party went as far to say, lawmakers “should go out where the real people are across the country and ask them what they think about D.C. statehood.”
“Bigotry. Bigotry. Bigotry...it’s shockingly inappropriate to imply that lives and occupations and rights of DC residents are somehow less than their fellow citizens..in more ‘white parts of the country’,” Schumer scolded, according to Pergram.
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