Today on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md) spoke about the chaotic scene they witnessed outside the House Chamber yesterday on the way to cast their votes, as well as their experiences with protestors and Republican colleagues following Sunday's healthcare vote.
Rep. Clyburn expressed shock at the protestors' comments and behavior as he passed them, saying: "And when you looked at some of the signs that were painted out there, putting a Hitler-like mustache on President Obama and other things that carry double meanings, you know that much of this was not about health care at all."
Rep. Cummings argued that the Republican reaction to the vote and the protestors was damaging to the political discourse. "I think we had a situation here where some of this was encouraged," he said. "I had gone outside and I noticed that the crowds were hollering very loudly. And I was trying to figure out -- it sounded like it was very much orchestrated. And then I looked up and I see about nine or 10 of my colleagues standing on the balcony with signs saying 'Kill the Bill' and literally you would have thought that they were at some football game or something, urging the crowd to do this."
A full transcript is below. If used, please credit MSNBC.
ANDREA MITCHELL INTERVIEWS REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC) AND REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-Md)
ANDREW MITCHELL, HOST: And for members of Congress who began as leaders of the civil rights movement four decades ago, this weekend's angry protests brought back some unwelcome reminders. As they marched across the Capitol to cast their votes, some faced racial slurs and other epithets from anti-health care protesters.
For men like James Clyburn and John Lewis, the parallels were inescapable.
And some Republican members actively egged other protesters on, waving signs that said, "Kill the Bill."
With me now, House majority whip, Congressman James Clyburn, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and Maryland Democrat, Elijah Cummings.
First, Congressman Clyburn to you.
What did you experience as you walked through the protesters just going about your job, going to -- going to work, going over to vote and have your caucus meetings this weekend?
REP. JOHN CLYBURN (D-SC), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Well, Saturday was just beyond the pale. I had just come back from my district. I had just spent, on the campus of Crawford University, four hours with students celebrating the 50th anniversary of the march I helped to organize, March 15th, 1960. I had just shared with those students how far we had come from that point, telling them that the things we did back then was to make sure that they would not have to relive those kinds of conditions.
And lo and behold, I come here, back to my work in Washington, getting ready to go about the business of trying to expand health care coverage to more people, and I met those kinds of jeers. And when I heard what had happened to John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver, I just could not believe my ears.
I would hope that those people who were invited, those groups here, for the weekend, who coordinated their trips and paid for their travel, I would hope that they would publicly denounce that kind of behavior and be sure that they don't conduct themselves that way at any time in the future.
MITCHELL: Were the -- were the slurs racial, as has been reported?
CLYBURN: I'm sorry?
MITCHELL: Were some -- were some of the slurs racial?
We know that Barney Frank was also...
CLYBURN: Oh, look...
MITCHELL: -- anti-gay epithets. But there were racial slurs?
CLYBURN: John Lewis told me that he was called the "N" word more than once. And two other members and a senator told me they heard those words being used.
And when you looked at some of the signs that were painted out there, putting a Hitler-like mustache on President Obama and other things that carry double meanings, you know that much of this was not about health care at all. All of this was about people who have been led to believe that for somebody else to get insurance coverage, would take something from them. That is the craziest notion that I've ever heard, but that's what some people seem to feel.
MITCHELL: There are some people suggesting that these were just renegade protesters. But Congressman Cummings, we saw pictures of the Republicans -- some Republican members coming outside and egging the protesters on with "Kill the Bill" signs. I've never seen an interaction like that between members of Congress standing on the balcony -- known informally as "the beach" -- and waving signs -- taking signs, in fact, from some of the protesters and waving them back at them.
What does that tell you about the interactions between the Republican Party and some of these protesters?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: As Whip Clyburn just said, I think we had a situation here where some of this was encouraged. I was
-- I -- I had gone outside and I noticed that the crowds were hollering very loudly. And I was trying to figure out -- it sounded like it was very much orchestrated.
And then I looked up and I see about nine or 10 of my colleagues standing on the balcony with signs saying "Kill the Bill" and literally you would have thought that they were at some football game or something, urging the crowd to do this.
I just -- and then another thing that was -- that was very upsetting is when -- even when Stupak was making his speech, for somebody to holler out some negative words. And then we had problems in the gallery at one point. And our -- sadly, our Republican colleagues applauded for the folks in the gallery that -- who were saying some very unkind things.
We've just got to get -- we -- we cannot stand for this. And I agree with James Clyburn. We -- you know, we can have our disagreements, but we don't have to be disagreeable. And we need to try to work together so that we can accomplish some great things that we have to do for our country.
And, by the way, this was a great day, because of people like Congressman Clyburn and Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, all of whom pulled us together as a party to present the very best that we had. I think our opposition to the (INAUDIBLE) and their best. And whoever wins, wins. And whoever loses, loses.
MITCHELL: David Gregory asked Republican Chairman Michael Steele about all of this yesterday on "Meet The Press".
This was his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "MEET THE PRESS," COURTESY NBC)
MICHAEL STEELE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: Well, it's not a danger to be associated with the Tea Party movement. It is -- it is certainly not a reflection of the movement or the Republican Party when you have some idiots out there saying very stupid things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: So the question returns, were these just, you know, idiots, or was this, in many ways, coordinated, and does the Republican Party have to take some responsibility because of things like that fundraising appeal, which was very, very harshly worded and later disavowed by Chairman Steele?
CLYBURN: Well, let me tell you something, it cannot be separated from the Republican Party when you've got Republican members standing on the floor applauding those people who were trying to disrupt the proceedings from the balcony.
Now, it seems to me that that was an encouragement. You just heard of -- of members being out on the -- the balcony, egging them on and some members speaking to them.
Congressman Nunez, I read, said that this was to be expected when you have a totalitarian government.
Now what is totalitarian about having Barack Obama as president of the United States?
This government was never totalitarian when anybody else has been president.
Why, all of a sudden, it became totalitarian?
It's because these people are trying everything they can to discredit this president; to, in some way, delegitimize his presidency; align themselves with the birthers and everything else. This is the kind of stuff that's got to stop in this country. I do believe that everybody ought to be denouncing this kind of behavior.
If you shame them, they'll go away. But if you keep encouraging them, they'll multiply.
CUMMINGS: And I...
MITCHELL: Do you think it...
CUMMINGS: And I...
MITCHELL: Do you think...
MITCHELL: -- it's racial, gentlemen?
Do you think it is racial...
CUMMINGS: I think so...
MITCHELL: -- this kind of protest against Barack Obama?
CUMMINGS: I think some of it probably is racial. There are some people who have legitimate disagreements. But this is not the way to do it. And certainly I -- I think that some of this conduct has definitely been encouraged. And it's like throwing oil on a fire, it just gets worse. And some kind of way -- I think our Republican friends ought to denounce it and -- and make it very clear that they will not stand for it.
As a matter of fact, one of the things that I saw was outside on the Capitol, outside of the Republicans' office window, when you come up on the Capitol grounds to park, you see "Kill the Bill" on little cards in a window.
I -- I don't think you would see that from a Democratic side of our Congress. I just don't think so.
CLYBURN: I've never seen it.
MITCHELL: Elijah Cummings...
MITCHELL: Elijah Cummings and James Clyburn after a long, difficult, contentious weekend on the House floor.
The action now moves to the Senate.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having us.
CUMMINGS: Thank you very much.
CLYBURN: Thank you.