"The idea of substituting a New York janitor who makes $37,000, and put a bunch of kids to work — the New York school district is predominantly minority, Latino and African American — is by its very words, divisive and destructive," she said.

But Lungren defended his old House colleague, and said Jackson Lee was lowering the level of debate by making these charges.

"To mischaracterize it as somehow having an underlying racial meaning demeans the level of debate on this floor, the level of debate in the presidential campaigns, and frankly, the reality that confronts too many of our people today," he said.

"The point that Newt Gingrich was making was that we should not revel in the fact that we have more people on food stamps than ever before, even though that has been promoted by some as evidence of our compassion," Lungren added. "What Mr. Gingrich suggested is we ought not to be beating our breasts in pride about our compassion — we ought to be looking inward about our inability to create opportunity for our fellow men and women in this society."