Democratic lawmaker loses his cool with Matt Gaetz during House floor speech: ‘You are exhausting!’

Heated debate came after Republicans introduced an amendment to a spending bill which has now banned diversity, equity and inclusion programs in the military

Rachel Sharp
Friday 14 July 2023 14:14 BST
Moment Democrat shouts at Matt Gaetz on House floor

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A Democratic lawmaker lost his cool with Matt Gaetz on the House floor on Thursday night, screaming that the far-right Republican is “exhausting”.

Rep Steven Horsford of Nevada singled out Mr Gaetz while giving an impassioned speech in defence of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the military and calling out shocking racially-charged comments made by multiple members of the Republican party in recent days.

On Thursday, House Republicans introduced an amendment to a military spending bill pushing to ban diversity, equity and inclusion programs from the Department of Defense (DOD).

Mr Horsford slammed the move warning it would hamper efforts to improve diversity in the military.

“This amendment does nothing to address the recruitment shortfalls that our services are facing and instead it will only make it more difficult to recruit Americans of diverse backgrounds representing the true makeup of our nation,” he said.

At this point, he turned and addressed Mr Gaetz directly, his voice rising.

“What are you so afraid of? Why do you keep bringing these divisive issues to the body of this floor?” he asked, before shouting: “You are out of order! You are exhausting, Mr Gaetz!”

Mr Gaetz – who is currently the focus of a revived House Ethics Committee investigation into his alleged misconduct – complained about Mr Horsford’s actions.

“Mr Speaker, the childish antics that we just observed indicate that we’ve got a lot of work to do, both in this House and the military, not to have radical racial ideology governing our discourse and governing the policy choices that we make in these bills,” he said.

During the heated debate, Mr Horsford, who is Black, also condemned comments made by Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville – who has repeatedly defended white nationalists – and Republican Rep Eli Crane – who used the term “coloured people” earlier on the House floor.

“Just this week, the sponsor of this amendment called Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the military a, quote, ‘failed experiment.’ He has called it ‘cancerous’,” said Mr Horsford.

Rep Steven Horsford screams at Matt Gaetz on House floor
Rep Steven Horsford screams at Matt Gaetz on House floor (C-Span)

“Just this week a senator from Alabama stated that it was his opinion that white nationalists are not necessarily racist and refused to denounce white nationalists serving in the military.”

He continued: “Just an hour ago, on this very floor, one of the members on the other side of this body said his amendment, quote, ‘had nothing to do whether coloured people or Black people can serve.’”

Mr Horsford said such comments by lawmakers “show exactly why we need diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives” in place.

Mr Crane faced an instant backlash on Thursday night when he defended the bill amendment by using the offensive term for people of colour.

“My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not coloured people or Black people or anybody can serve. It has nothing to do with any of that stuff,” Mr Crane said.

The comment was widely condemned and ultimately struck from the record.

Meanwhile, for the past couple of months, Mr Tuberville – who has been blocking the confirmation of senior military officials in protest of the DOD’s abortion policy – has repeatedly refused to condemn white nationalists as racist.

“I call them Americans,” he said in May.

This week, he then claimed that he can’t possibly be racist because he worked with many people of colour during his time as a football coach. On Tuesday, he finally walked back his defence of white nationalists, now admitting that they “are racists”.

Following Thursday’s heated debate, House members voted on the amendment.

The Republican-majority House passed the amendment by just one vote of 214 to 213, striking down diversity initiatives in the military.

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