National Politics

Diaz-Balart votes against House resolution condemning ‘racist’ Trump tweets

Just four Republicans joined House Democrats on Tuesday in a vote to condemn President Trump for his “racist comments” about four Congresswomen of color over the weekend.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the son of Cuban immigrants, was not among them. The Republican representing Southwest Florida in the 25th Congressional District, was the only South Florida representative to vote against House Resolution 489.

The measure passed along party lines with one independent joining the Democrats. The four Republicans who voted for the resolution were Will Hurd of Texas, Fred Upton of Michigan, Susan Brooks of Indiana and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.

The resolution “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

It came in response to a series of tweets Trump posted Sunday suggesting the Democratic congresswomen, three of whom were born in the United States, “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

The targets of Trump’s twitter tirade were House representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. All of them are U.S. citizens and all were elected to the House for the first time in November.

President Trump, claiming on Twitter not to “have a Racist bone in my body,” said his tweets were not racist and that the resolution was a “Democrat con game.”

Diaz-Balart told reporters he didn’t agree with the phrasing Trump used in his tweets and that he “would never say that,” but he did not go so far as to call Trump’s “go back” tweets — or Trump — racist.

Mario_Diaz-Ballart
Diaz-Balart

“We throw this racist thing around so easily, and I think it’s grossly irresponsible to just throw it out there,” he said. “Obviously racism does exist, like anti-Semitism does exist, and I don’t think those are things you should just throw around, so I don’t want to go there to calling somebody racist for a statement.”

Diaz-Balart is the only Republican House member representing South Florida.

The region’s remaining seven House members, all Democrats, voted in support of the resolution. They included Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-26; Donna Shalala, D-27; Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-23; Frederica Wilson, D-24; Alcee Hastings, D-20; Lois Frankel, D-21; and Ted Deutch, D-22.

Diaz-Balart’s response fell closely in line with that of Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, who both said they disagreed with Trump’s approach.

Rubio declined to call Trump’s comments racist. He said others may interpret them to be. Scott said they weren’t.

“I don’t read into people’s intentions,” Rubio said. “First of all, I disagree with the term that because somehow your parents were born in another country that somehow makes you less American. Perhaps that wasn’t his intent. I can’t tell you what his intent was. The White House and the president can tell you that. I can only tell you that when presidents speak, it has an impact.”

Diaz-Balart issued a statement Tuesday night explaining his decision to vote against the resolution.

“I am proud of my record of service in support of immigrant rights. As the son and sibling of immigrants, I know that immigrants have always played, and continue to play, a crucial and exemplary role in our great nation,” he said. “I strongly believe that public discourse in our republic needs to be focused on the challenges and issues confronting us, and that, on all sides of the political spectrum, we should avoid politically motivated personal attacks.”

McClatchy DC reporter Alex Daugherty contributed to this report

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