By Scott Wong - 01/13/15 09:33 AM EST
Six years before he spoke to a white supremacist group, while he was a state legislator, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voted against a resolution apologizing for slavery, according to a 1996 article from New Orleans's Times-Picayune.
Scalise later backed a watered-down version that expressed “regret” for slavery. But the article identifies him as one of two lawmakers on the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee who tried to kill the original resolution, which apologized to African-Americans for the state’s role “in the establishment and maintenance of the institution of slavery.”
“Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn't do and had no part of?” Scalise is quoted as saying in the newspaper. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”
Scalise spokeswoman Moira Smith did not respond to two emails and a voice message seeking comment about the congressman’s vote.
The Times-Picayune story, published April 11, 1996, was first flagged in a tweet by Lamar White Jr., the liberal blogger who broke the story about Scalise’s 2002 speech to a gathering of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, founded by ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in House leadership, has apologized for participating in the event, blaming it on a limited staff that didn’t properly vet the hate group. At a news conference at the Capitol last week, he made clear that he rejects “bigotry of all forms.”
But two years after that speech, in 2004, as a state representative, Scalise also voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a state holiday. He voted against a similar measure in 1999.
GOP sources have said Scalise opposed the cost of creating another holiday, but no one from Team Scalise have gone on record to explain the votes.
"It's very troubling, and many people feel that way," one House GOP lawmaker said of the newly revealed incidents involving Scalise.
Two civil rights groups — the National Urban League and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — have requested meetings with Scalise to discuss his speech, saying “there is a question about whether your 2002 speech to EURO was a subtle 'dog whistle' of affinity to David Duke’s group of supporters.”
And members of the Congressional Black Caucus have called on Scalise to do more than just apologize. They’ve suggested he sit down with their group, give a speech on race relations, march in the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” Selma march or sponsor voting-rights legislation.Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said Tuesday he's reached out to Scalise's office in the past week and asked the majority whip if he'll co-sponsor legislation establishing a civil-rights trail through the National Park Service. Clay called the "accumulation" of Scalise stories "very troubling."
"It shows a pattern and it causes me to pause and wonder where that person's heart and mind is," Clay told The Hill on Tuesday.
Another civil rights group, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, plans to protest Scalise later on Tuesday when he meets with donors at the members-only Capitol Hill Club, next to the Republican National Committee headquarters.
South Carolina's Tim Scott, the first African-American Republican senator elected from the South since Reconstruction, said he recently spoke to Scalise, but wouldn't share details of the conversation. The two served years in the House together, and Scott said he expects that Scalise will be involved in discussions about issues affecting the black community.
"I think we're going to have a robust conversation on income inequality, a robust conversation about sentencing reforms," Scott told The Hill. "There's lots of issues that I think you'll find Scalise open to discussing."
This story was updated at 2:05 p.m.