Scalise to meet with black leader who questioned his leadership

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise will meet with the head of the National Urban League in the wake of a revelation that the Louisiana Republican spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002.

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Marc Morial, a former Democratic New Orleans mayor, publicly questioned this month whether Scalise should remain in GOP leadership. Now Morial will get a chance to question his fellow Louisianan directly.

Morial confirmed to The Hill that he and Scalise connected by phone Monday night and agreed to sit down in the “near future” to discuss a host of issues outlined in his recent letter to Scalise, including renewal of the Voting Rights Act. Wade Henderson, the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, will also attend the meeting.

A Scalise spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, though Scalise has previously apologized for speaking to the group and said he opposes bigotry of all forms.

In his Jan. 6 letter, Morial asked whether then-state Rep. Scalise’s 2002 speech to the white supremacist group European-American Unity and Rights Organization was “a subtle ‘dog whistle’ of affinity to David Duke's group of supporters.”

He went on to suggest Scalise had engaged in a pattern of questionable actions while serving in the state legislature. Scalise twice voted against the creation of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Morial pointed out. And as a congressman, Scalise also voted against naming a U.S. post office after Lionel Collins, “a pioneering civil rights lawyer and the first African-American judge in Jefferson Parish, La.,” Morial wrote.

The Hill reported this month that as a state lawmaker in 1996, Scalise also tried to kill a resolution that would have Louisiana apologize for its role in the institution of slavery.

“By themselves, your votes on the symbolic initiatives of the King Holiday and the Collins USPS facility were disappointing,” Morial wrote in his letter, which was also signed by Henderson.

“Combined with the current [speech] controversy, however, they raise serious and legitimate questions about whether, in your new role as a member of the House leadership, you can be fair to all of the interests you will be charged to represent.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) so far have stood by Scalise and have not pressured him to step down from the No. 3 job in Republican leadership.

But the controversy has damaged Scalise’s reputation in the House, where lawmakers from both parties have said he needs to do more than just apologize for his past actions.

Morial isn’t the only African-American leader who plans to sit down with Scalise.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), told The Hill he briefly spoke with Scalise on the House floor the night of the State of the Union. The two men agreed to get together soon to discuss the controversy and ways Scalise could work on legislation with the CBC.