WASHINGTON — Rep. Jared Polis offered no apology a day after a screaming, partisan outburst on the House floor about the country’s immigration laws.
“No, of course not,” the Boulder Democrat said Thursday when a reporter asked if he wanted to say sorry for his angry display at 5:15 p.m. MT Wednesday.
Polis pointed both of his index fingers toward, and screamed at a Republican congresswoman who presided as temporary speaker.
Midway through the outburst, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) rapped her gavel twice to seek to bring the proceedings to order, but her use of the standard parliamentary device did not calm Polis.
“I want you, Madame Speaker, to address the reason that they are here,” Polis screamed, referring apparently to immigration overhaul advocates sitting in the House gallery, whom Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) had recognized in his speech before Polis.
“They are here because our government is tearing apart their families, Madame Speaker!,” he screamed again, waved his right hand, and pointed his right index finger at Walorski.
Walorski sought to interject. “Will the gentleman from Colorado understand all members …” she said before being interrupted by Polis.
“Will the Speaker understand that?” he said, regaining his composure. “The Speaker is obstructing H.R. 15 from coming to the floor. Will the Speaker understand that?”
In a brief interview with TCO, Polis defended his remarks and tone as a necessary response to House Republican leaders’ refusal to bring a bill granting legal status to undocumented immigrants to the floor for a vote. “It’s completely inappropriate for them to obstruct (this bill),” he said.
Walorski did not respond to a request for comment.
Several times in recent months, Polis has spoken on the House floor about the need for the House to vote on immigration legislation the Senate passed June 27.
“I want to recognize there are individuals that are suffering because of our inaction, families that are torn apart, immigration workers so critical for our economic success, living in the United States who even helped put our Thanksgiving dinners on the table this year,” Polis said in his original remarks, which he made before Rep. Garcia spoke.
Polis has sought to position himself as a key point person in the Colorado congressional delegation on immigration. He has told other members that his staff can help the representatives with any immigration- and illegal-immigration problems in their districts, according to one Republican member.
Polis’ advocacy for illegal immigrants has invited charges of partisanship, however.
His speech Wednesday night did not tell the full story about the reasons that illegal immigration activists were sitting in the House gallery. It was the Obama administration, and not House Republican leaders, that a key pro-amnesty activist blamed for the country’s uneasy status quo.
In his original speech Wednesday night, Polis quoted from a letter that a Capitol Hill staffer released Wednesday. Erika Andiola, an aide to Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), said she was resigning from her job because she wished to fight the deportation charge against her mother in Mesa, Arizona.
“I am facing the most painful aspect of the record-setting deportations of the Obama administration: family separation by deportation,” Andiola wrote.
Three congressional officials who were interviewed for this story said Polis’ outburst was unusual for the three-term lawmaker, who represents the 2nd Congressional District.
“I have never seen it,” a GOP congressman said of Polis getting angry behind closed doors.
“He’s very friendly, but he’s passionate about the issues,” a Democratic member said, choosing his words with care.
A Colorado GOP aide characterized Polis’ outburst as ironic. The staffer noted that Polis sits on the House Rules Committee, a 13-member panel that oversees the procedure over which bills are debated and speakers appear on the floor.
Thursday, Polis led the debate on an amendment to patent-reform legislation. It passed unanimously.