Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Wednesday mocked an effort by Democrats to protect the rights of African-Americans by saying their amendment was actually meant for “the snail darter, various lizards, the lesser prairie chicken, the greater sage grouse and so many other insects.”
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Sunshine for the Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, a Republican-sponsored bill that Democrats say is unnecessary and is written so broadly that it could block individual discrimination lawsuits brought forth by federal employees.
Think Progress obtained video of Gohmert objecting to an amendment offered by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) that would have stopped third parties from blocking regulatory actions that were intended to prevent discrimination based on sex, race or national origin.
The Texas Republican argued that the amendment was more about protecting wildlife than minorities and other groups.
“There is nobody in this chamber who is more appreciative than I am for the gentleman from Tennessee and my friend from Michigan standing up for the rights of race, religion, national religion of the Delta Smelt, the snail darter, various lizards, the lesser prairie chicken, the greater sage grouse and so many other insects who would want someone standing for their religion, their race, their national origin and I think that’s wonderful,” Gohmert quipped.
He added that the original Republican bill would actually “protect interests” of minorities because it provided for greater transparency.
“It will not allow for some conservative or radical right-wing administration or group in the fish and wildlife to cut a deal with some right-wing radical group and we never know about it so nobody can intervene and stop it,” Gohmert insisted. “So you don’t have some group that is directly aligned with somebody in the administration at that point coming together, cutting a sweetheart deal between themselves, to the determent of the race, religion and national religion of snail darters and other animals and fish and wildlife.”
“I’ve got to express umbrage at the idea that African-Americans and Jews are like snail darters,” Cohen replied.
“The gentlemen will take note what this bill is about!” Gohmert shouted. “It’s not about race, it’s about endangered species.”
“The amendment is about civil rights!” Cohen shot back.
“If the gentlemen can point to an endangered species in this country that is a human being, I am with him 100 percent!” Gohmert exclaimed
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told Think Progress that Gohmert’s claim that the amendment was about wildlife was ridiculous.
“This is not a snail darter’s amendment, it is not an environmental amendment, it is a civil rights amendment, and we’re talking about the civil rights of people — the civil rights of people that have been violated egregiously for generations in this country,” Nadler explained.
In the end, Cohen’s amendment was defeated along party lines in a 13 to 16 vote. The Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act passed the committee along party lines, but it has little chance of advancing in the Senate.
Watch this video from the House of Representatives, broadcast July 25, 2013.