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GOP lawmaker says he ‘misspoke’ in referring to ‘colored people’ on House floor

Freshman Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) said he “misspoke” when he referred to Black Americans as “colored people” on the House floor Thursday while arguing that the military should not focus on diversity — a comment that sparked an immediate outcry in the chamber and that was condemned by Democrats.

“In a heated floor debate on my amendment that would prohibit discrimination on the color of one’s skin in the Armed Forces, I misspoke,” Crane said in a statement Friday. “Every one of us is made in the image of God and created equal.”

Crane on Thursday was proposing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that he said would prohibit the Defense Department from “considering race, gender, religion or political affiliations or any other ideological concepts as a sole basis for recruitment, training, education, promotion or retention decisions.”

It was one of scores of Republican-led amendments to the Pentagon budget bill that centered on some of the far right’s most hot-button issues. Other amendments included ones that would restrict federal funding for military members who travel to receive an abortion and for those who receive gender-affirming medical care.

Crane, who served in the Navy and who was elected to his first term in November, suggested that any focus on diversity would lead to a lowering of military standards.

“The military was never intended to be, you know, inclusive,” Crane said. “Its strength is not its diversity. Its strength is its standards. Diversity can be a great thing, but that should not be our focus. And I’m going to tell you guys just right now, you can … keep playing around these games with diversity, equity and inclusion. But there are some real threats out there. And if we keep messing around and we keep lowering our standards, it’s not going to be good.”

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, accused Republicans of using the typically bipartisan defense budget bill to advance a political agenda.

“I’m old enough to remember when Black officers, when women were not allowed to serve,” Beatty said. “You are setting us back on this floor on both sides of the aisle.”

Crane responded by declaring that his amendment “has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or Black people or anybody can serve” — which prompted a few audible gasps from the chamber and an outcry from Beatty.

“It has nothing to do with the color of your skin — any of that stuff,” Crane added. “What we want is to preserve and maintain is the fact that our military does not become a social experiment. We want the best of the best. We want to have standards that guide who’s in what unit, what they do.”

Beatty then demanded that the words “colored people” be stricken from the record, after which Crane stood and asked for his comments to be amended to “people of color.”

“I find it offensive and very inappropriate,” Beatty said. “I am asking for unanimous consent to take down the words of referring to me or any of my colleagues as ‘colored people.’ … I didn’t ask for an amendment.”

This is a shameful moment on the House floor.

Rep. Eli Crane referring to Black service members who risk their lives for our country as ‘colored people’ is unconscionable.

The GOP fights against diversity, equity and inclusion training and prove everyday why it’s necessary. https://t.co/mwIN6E0dro

— The Black Caucus (@TheBlackCaucus) July 13, 2023

The Congressional Black Caucus later called Crane’s remarks “a shameful moment on the House floor.”

“The GOP fights against diversity, equity and inclusion training and prove everyday why it’s necessary,” the caucus said in a statement on Twitter.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Friday in a statement that Crane’s comment was “unprofessional, insensitive and unbecoming of a member of the U.S. House.”

“It smacks of vestiges of racism, proving that in 2023, we do not live in the colorblind society,” Horsford added.

Crane’s amendment passed in a 214-210 vote. The House narrowly passed the divisive Pentagon policy bill on Friday in a 219-210 vote, with nearly all Democrats voting against the legislation. Democrats and moderate Republicans predict that the defense bill, in its current form, will die in the Senate, raising uncertainty for the fate of major items that leaders from both political parties had identified as national defense imperatives.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) blasted Republicans for using a traditionally bipartisan Pentagon budget bill to wage their ongoing “culture war.”

“It is woefully irresponsible that extreme MAGA Republicans have hijacked a bipartisan bill that is essential to our national security and taken it over and weaponized it in order to jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people,” Jeffries told reporters Friday morning. “That’s why they’ve used the National Defense Authorization Act to continue their march toward a nationwide ban on abortion care and applying it to women service members and military spouses. That’s outrageous. And it undermines our national security.”

Abigail Hauslohner contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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