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The House floor erupted Thursday after Congress adjourned for the week when an unidentified Republican congressman yelled a controversial and potentially racially charged remark across the aisle as Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas was at the podium.
“Go back to Puerto Rico!” the lawmaker shouted, punctuating a stream of Republican whooping and hollering at the Democratic majority for holding a voice vote — instead of the normal roll call vote — to pass a continuing resolution that would reopen nine Cabinet departments through Feb. 28
Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and other Democrats in the chamber shot out of their seats demanding to know who shouted the comment.
Cárdenas walked over to the Republican side of the aisle and huddled with some GOP lawmakers, but none stepped forward to admit they had shouted the remark.
“It came from the other side of the chamber. … We don’t know who it is,” Jackson Lee said, declining to speculate on who might have been responsible.
It was unclear whether the comment was directed at Cárdenas or Democrats more broadly. Roughly 30 House and Senate Democrats flew to Puerto Rico last weekend to inspect the Hurricane Maria recovery effort and highlight the ongoing work there to address the damage caused by the 2017 storm.
“I would hope maybe privately the individual would go to Mr. Cardenas and appropriately apologize,” Jackson Lee said.
The C-SPAN cameras were still rolling when the commotion over the Puerto Rico comment broke out. But it would be nearly impossible to definitively identify who shouted the remark because multiple Republican members were murmuring or shouting at the time and the comment came from someone who was not at a microphone or the podium.
“We’ve been called names and been told to go back to Mexico, go back to whatever, so many times,” Rep. Sylvia Garcia said. “It’s just unfortunate that it would happen on the floor of the House of Representatives.”