An already tense session in the House was made even more so on Thursday when Republican Rep. Jason Smith yelled, “Go back to Puerto Rico!” while Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas was at the podium, according to Roll Call.
Smith subsequently called Cárdenas to apologize for what his spokesman said was a misunderstood comment.
“Go back to Puerto Rico!” the Missouri congressman shouted, punctuating a stream of Republican whooping and hollering at the Democratic majority for initially rejecting their request to redo a vote on a continuing resolution to reopen shuttered agencies through Feb. 28.
Democrats had called for a voice vote on the CR, as is typical with most votes, and Republicans wanted a roll call vote to show most of their members objected to the measure. Democrats said they never requested one, but some Republicans disputed that.
Joey Brown, Smith’s spokesperson, acknowledged that it was Smith who made the remark but insisted it was not directed at Cárdenas personally.
“Congressman Smith’s comment was directed at all the Democrats who were vacationing down in Puerto Rico last weekend during the government shutdown, not towards any individual member,” Brown said.
Dozens of House and Senate Democrats were in Puerto Rico last weekend for a trip organized by Bold PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that is led by Cárdenas, some of whom stayed for a separate Latino Victory political summit.
Cárdenas told Roll Call he was shocked to hear the remark, because he “often heard those kinds of comments when I was a kid growing up in Pacoima, California.”
Cárdenas also said Smith “took responsibility for the comment and sincerely apologized” — an apology he accepted.