Miami Congressman Joe Garcia riled conservatives Tuesday by taking to the U.S. House floor and blaming a partial shutdown of the federal government on “this extremist element, this Taliban.”
Garcia’s comment was the latest example of heightened tensions and terrorism-related rhetoric in the stalemated Congress, where Senate Democrats are refusing House Republican efforts to defund, delay or degrade Obamacare as part of a budget resolution.
In his brief speech, Garcia said that some Republican House members wanted to vote on a so-called “clean” resolution that continues funding the government, but they were scared.
“Unfortunately they've been taken hostage by extremist elements in their party,” Garcia, a Democrat, said. "We just need our colleagues to step up, push aside these extremist elements, this Taliban."
The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican Party of Florida took exception with the comments.
“Congressman Joe Garcia's remarks on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, equating some of his colleagues to the Taliban, is reprehensible and disgusting,” RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry said.
“Congressman Garcia needs to apologize to his colleagues and all Floridians.”
Garcia said he wasn’t specifically referring to any congressional member or group in Congress.
“I’m not referring to any member. I was talking about extremism,” Garcia said. “If anyone is offended, I’m sorry.”
Garcia's reference is the latest terrorism-related metaphor in the House, where Texas Rep. John Culberson endorsed a GOP plan to fight on by reportedly saying: “I said, like 9/11, ‘let’s roll!’”
Liberals were outraged. Now it’s conservatives turn with Garcia’s comments.
The last time a congressional Taliban reference made news in Florida was in 2010 when Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson ran a misleading ad calling Republican Dan Webster “Taliban Dan.” Webster went on to win the race, Grayson has since been reelected to another seat.
One of Garcia’s fellow congressional members from Miami, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart said he didn’t want to criticize.
“I would just urge him, urge all of us, to lower the rhetoric,” Diaz-Balart said.
Hours before the government shutdown that started midnight Tuesday, Diaz-Balart was one of just 12 Republicans to oppose the House’s third attempt to undermine Obamacare, which went into effect Tuesday and which the Senate and the president want to maintain. Nine Democrats crossed party lines and voted for the House plan.
Diaz-Balart said he was weary of voting for the same failed tactic, and called for different budget maneuvers to delay the Affordable Care Act.
“I’ve voted against Obamacare 42 times,” Diaz-Balart said.
“When they brought the idea of defunding Obamacare, House Republicans were told we could get Democratic votes. So I voted for it. But it didn’t happen,” he said. “Then we tried again. And it didn’t work. The third time, it was like: Look, this isn’t working. Let’s try something else.”
More Republican plans are afoot to stop Obamacare, but Democrats like Garcia say it’s a lost cause.
Garcia said he is open to some common-sense reforms to improve Obamacare, not destroy it.
“As much as people want to call me a bomb-thrower, look at my record,” Garcia said. “I’m have one of the most, if not the most, moderate voting records in Congress in the Florida delegation.”