An attempt at a voice vote on the House floor Thursday was abandoned after it devolved into a shouting match, according to The Hill. The vote, proposed by Democrats, was on a stopgap measure to fund the government through February 28. Republicans were not happy with how the Democrats decided to pursue the vote, and the discussion on the floor quickly became heated.
From The Hill:
“Go back to Puerto Rico,” one GOP member yelled at Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), apparently in reference to a Democrat’s recent retreat on the island. Trump has also criticized Democrats for leaving Washington, D.C., while the government isn’t funded.
At first, no one would admit to having made the comment.
“There was about 50 mostly male Republicans staring at me, and no one would admit that they said it. I asked several times but no one owned up to the fact that they said it,” Cárdenas told the Washington Post.
Later, it became apparent that the comment was made by Rep. Jason Smith, who said he wasn’t targeting any individual.
“Simply not true [that I was speaking to an individual],” Smith told The Hill. “Was speaking to all the Democrats who were down vacationing in Puerto Rico last weekend during the shutdown, not any individual member.”
“I was shocked, because I often heard those kinds of comments when I was a kid growing up in Pacoima, California, where I was born and raised,” Cárdenas told Post.
Later, Cárdenas said, Smith called him and “took responsibility for the comment and sincerely apologized.”
The idea that Democrats are vacationing in Puerto Rico during the shutdown has become something of a conservative meme. The idea originated thanks to a trip organized by Bold PAC and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led by Cárdenas, that brought 30 House members to Puerto Rico last weekend.
“One of the reasons was to show that going to Puerto Rico means that you’re helping fellow Americans and you’re helping the American economy and in addition to that, the more important side than that is making sure that we came to see for ourselves what is the condition of Puerto Rico. How bad is it? And it’s bad,” Cárdenas told The Hill earlier this week.
“We started planning this a year ago and just because there’s a Trump shutdown, it doesn’t mean that the world is going to stop,” he added. “We appreciate and respect every single worker who’s being punished by Donald Trump. But at the same time there’s over 3.2 million Puerto Rican American citizens on this island that deserve for us to continue to do our job.”
During their trip, House delegates attended informational sessions with local political leaders including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and Ponce Mayor María Meléndez, as well as with NGOs and other organizations.
Much of the conservative press has revolved around the opening of the musical Hamilton in Puerto Rico, which happened to coincide with the delegation’s trip. Tickets for the musical will raise funds for Flamboyan Arts Fund, a local charity. The lawmakers who went to see Hamilton paid for their tickets themselves, which were as steep as $500 each.
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro falsely claimed that Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among the delegation, and later tweeted a retraction. But by then, Trump had tweeted a quote from a segment on Fox & Friends about the trip verbatim.