Cubin Draws CBC’s Ire

Posted April 9, 2003 at 6:33pm

Controversial comments by Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) sparked a sharp rebuke from the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday, but leaders on both sides of the aisle expressed doubt that there would be continued political fallout from the matter.

During floor debate on a bill that would protect gun manufacturers and dealers from some civil lawsuits, Cubin spoke against several Democratic amendments, including one that would have prevented gun sales near drug treatment facilities.

“My sons are 25 and 30; they are blond-haired and blue-eyed,” Cubin said. “One amendment today said we can’t sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean that if you go into a black community you cannot sell a gun to any black person or does that mean because my …”

At that point she was interrupted by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), who demanded that her words be “taken down” and read to the House — a procedural move which forces the person in the chair to rule whether a specific statement “is in order” and if it violates House rules.

Cubin apologized to her “colleague for his sensitivities” but said that she would not withdraw her words as she “did not break any rules of the House.”

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who was in the Speaker’s chair, then ruled that Cubin’s words were “not unparliamentary under the rules and precedents of the House,” at which point Watt appealed the ruling.

Ultimately the House voted largely along party lines to table Watt’s appeal, effectively upholding LaHood’s ruling and ending the matter. The vote was 227-195-1.

After the vote, Cubin said that if she had not been interrupted earlier, she would have said, “I don’t believe in stereotyping anyone, anytime.”

She added, “I apologize to anyone who was hurt” by the remarks.

Watt, meanwhile, simply handed out a copy of Cubin’s words and said: “That is all I have to say; the words speak for themselves.”

The Congressional Black Caucus chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), said, “It is shocking to the conscience that in 2003 a Member of the U.S. Congress uttered the words Ms. Cubin uttered” without understanding “why those words would be totally offensive to African-American people.”

Cummings added that after the controversy involving Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), President Bush “said that such racist statements were not reflective of the Republican Party. The Black Caucus calls on the Republican Party to synchronize their conduct with their conscience.”

Despite such harsh rhetoric, a Democratic aide said the CBC is not likely to call on Cubin to resign.

Indeed, in an official statement released later in the day, Cummings called the comments “inappropriate and offensive” and urged that they be removed from the Congressional Record. But, he said, “we must move on and focus on … the issues that are at the center of people’s lives.”

Likewise, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he had no intention of asking Cubin to step down.

“It would be hypocritical of me,” Hoyer said, noting that just a few weeks ago he stood by embattled Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) when he made comments that were considered to be anti-Semitic.

At the time of the Moran controversy, Hoyer said that Congress would be in trouble if every Member who said something foolish was forced to resign.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) brushed aside questions about Cubin’s statement, simply saying: “I read the statement and I’m not sure it said anything.”

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) said: “I can’t really tell you because I didn’t hear it.”

A GOP leadership aide added: “The Congresswoman’s comments are difficult to interpret because she never was able to finish her statement or thought.”