Guy Reschenthaler’s face looked beat up. I almost felt sorry for him. The Pennsylvania congressman was forced to explain Thursday what he and his conference were doing in the House after Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, in short order, tore three of them down.
By the time Raskin was finished with Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, the carnage was so bad Reschenthaler demanded that Raskin’s word “be taken down.” That’s a House rule disciplining members who use “inappropriate words in debate.”
(In this case it was over passage of the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend Lease Act, a $33 billion aid package requested by the president to continue helping Ukraine fight and repel the invading Russian army.)
Raskin conceded that he used “unparliamentary language to make my point.” Though Raskin was scolded, it was Reschenthaler who looked warmed over. Before moving on, he explained that his conference wasn’t debating the substance of the bill. (It has majority support, he said.) His conference was merely debating the rule leading to passage.
In truth, Elise Stefanik of New York, James Comer of Kentucky and Greene of Georgia were following a play devised by colleague Jim Jordan. The idea, according to a leaked memo, was making everything about immigration for the benefit of the viewers of rightwing media. So they were long on “open border policy” and the “invasion of the southern border” and short on anything having to do with Ukraine.
It was like Raskin saw that bullshit coming.
In what looked like a masterclass on defusing and dismantling rightwingers and their fascist rhetoric, Raskin 1) put the Republicans in a broad context with the highest of stakes, in this case Ukrainian democracy against Russian autocracy; and 2) found a Republican, in this case Marjorie Talyor Greene, who has said things you say only when your love of democracy is subordinate to your lust for power.
Raskin boxed them in.
Then he stomped the box.
The following is a lightly edited transcript of Raskin's response to statements made by Stafanik, Comer and Greene, in that order.
Responding to Elise Stefanik
I think that all of these efforts to distract us from the issue at hand are meant to cover up the very clear pro-Russian and pro-Putin faction at the heart of their side of the aisle.
Last month, the very distinguished gentlelady from Georgia went on a radio show called The Voice of Rural America. She followed Donald Trump’s sickening appeasement of Vladimir Putin and blamed Ukraine for the situation.
She said, “You see, Ukraine just kept poking the bear and poking the bear, which is Russia, and Russia invaded. There is no win for Ukraine here. Russia is successful in this invasion.
When members of Congress, who are cheerleaders for Vladimir Putin, and are voices have nothing but defeatism, fatalism and pessimism for democracy in Europe – so they try to distract us with a lot of phony rhetoric about other issues.
She also said, “NATO has been supplying the neo-Nazis in Ukraine with powerful weapons and extensive training on how to use them. What the hell is going on with these NATO Nazis?”
My friends, we got to decide which side we're on.
When Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt looked at what was happening in Europe during World War Two and they saw Nazis marching down the street, they did not see very fine people on both sides of the street.
They did not start cheerleading for Mussolini and Hitler and Franco.
Yet we have people here who speak on the side of Vladimir Putin and on the side of Russia. Let's pass this Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend Lease Act to show where America is.
We are not cheerleaders for Vladimir Putin.
We are not going to follow the Trump-Putin axis down the road towards autocracy and kleptocracy and sedition and insurrection and corruption and coups in the United States.
That's not where we're going.
This is the land of the free, the home of the brave.
We stand for democracy here.
Not Vladimir Putin.
Responding to James Comer
We're here to talk about aid to Ukraine, how to streamline and expedite aid to defend the people of Ukraine. And they will talk about anything but.
I was willing to believe the distinguished gentlelady from Georgia, and several other members, were isolated in their conference.
Now I'm starting to think maybe they're speaking for the whole conference.
I wonder if my good friend from Pennsylvania would explicitly repudiate some of these statements made by the gentlelady from Georgia.
Does the minority conference agree that NATO has been supplying “neo-Nazis in Ukraine” with powerful weapons?
Does the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania support or dissociate himself from the argument that the aid that we sent to Ukraine falls “into the hands of Nazis”? – a statement made by the gentlelady from Georgia echoing Putin’s filthy claim that his war on the sovereign democracy of Ukraine is in fact an attempt to de-Nazify the country.
We hear distinct echoes in everything that we get from the erudite gentlelady from Georgia.
Does the minority agree that Putin invaded because Ukraine repeatedly poked the bear?
I can't understand why they won't talk about defending Ukraine. That's what this legislation is about. That's what this rule is about.
They want to talk about anything other than that. We can debate all of those other important issues in other contexts at the right time. This is how the House of Representatives works.
But why are they covering up for the pro-Putin faction within their conference? I would like them to dissociate themselves from the people who were blaming Ukraine for Russia's bloody imperial invasion and war of human rights violations and atrocities against the people.
Responding to Marjorie Taylor Greene
Mr. Speaker, the United States of America just witnessed the most astonishing spectacle.
We are here to debate aid to the people of Ukraine defending themselves against a massive invasion by Vladimir Putin and his army.
Then, the minority puts up the distinguished gentlelady from Georgia who does not mention Ukraine once. She does not mention the thousands of Ukrainian civilians who’ve been slaughtered by Putin's army.
She does not mention more than 100 Ukrainian children who've been shot and killed by the [Russian] army.
Instead, she talks about a massive invasion at the border, a massive invasion which their own speakers have said today hundreds of thousands of people have been apprehended in.
That's very different from a military invasion.
The one in Ukraine, of course, the gentlelady is not going to talk about that.
She had a lot to say the other day when she heckled me continuously. When I came to the floor, it was like the Rocky Horror Picture Show in here with her chanting about the Russia hoax and Russia this and Russia that.
Now she has the opportunity to tell the world what her views about Russia are. I put them out there, exactly what she said.
She said that the aid that the taxpayers of America are sending to the people of Ukraine to defend themselves against Vladimir Putin and the Russian Army falls into the hands of Nazis.
I want to see her proof.
Where's her evidence?
She talks about NATO Nazis.
Does the minority believe our allies in NATO, who are trying to defend the people of Ukraine, are Nazis?
Has to come to this?
Gentlelady talks about a massive invasion – we had a massive invasion of our own chamber.
She continued to be a cheerleader for the insurrection.