Minutes highlight Scalise efforts to kill resolution apologizing for slavery

Francis Rivera

The minutes from a 1996 Louisiana House committee meeting show the efforts that then-state Rep. Steve Scalise took to water down — and try to kill — a resolution apologizing for the role slavery played in the state’s history.

The minutes, obtained by The Hill, say the Louisiana Republican “took exception to being asked to apologize for something the present generation had no part in.” The notes also say that, as a “voice for government, he opposes speaking on behalf of his constituents in such a way.”

{mosads}The minutes are consistent with an account of the meeting from New Orleans’s Times-Picayune: “Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” Scalise said. “I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did.”

Scalise, now the House majority whip, is facing tough questions about his record on race. The third-ranking House GOP leader recently admitted that he spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. He also voted twice against the creation of a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. And this week, The Hill reported that Scalise tried to kill a symbolic resolution apologizing for slavery nearly 20 years ago.

“These revelations are obviously disgusting. The question is what do we do about it,” Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), the new chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Wednesday. “Do we continue to dwell on it, or do we try to use Mr. Scalise in our efforts to build a better future.”

The original House Concurrent Resolution 22, introduced by then-state Rep. Yvonne Dorsey, represented an apology to the Pelican State’s African-American community for the institution of slavery. The Democrat reminded her colleagues, the minutes say, that past Louisiana legislatures had “enshrined slavery, tearing families apart and making it legal and respectable to be slave owners.”

Dorsey said nowhere in the state’s laws or literature is there a “simple apology,” and that both blacks and whites are continuing to pay, even today, for the state’s role in slavery.

Dorsey, who now serves in the state Senate and goes by Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, told The Hill this week that she was hurt when Scalise attacked her resolution in the House and Government Affairs Committee.

“I didn’t like what he said and how he said it. It was callous,” said Dorsey-Colomb, who is the descendant of slaves. “I think he wanted nothing to do with it. It was like, ‘How dare you bring this up and ask us to do this.’ ”

Another familiar face was in the committee meeting as well: Republican David Vitter. The U.S. senator and 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial candidate was also a state representative serving on the panel.

Vitter echoed Scalise in the meeting, arguing that an apology for slavery implied an “admission of guilt,” according to the minutes. The future U.S. senator said “an expression of regret” was more appropriate.

Dorsey eventually agreed to Vitter’s suggestion, and the resolution was unanimously amended to include the “regret” language. Scalise made one last attempt to kill the resolution, making a motion to “defer action.” But his effort was defeated 11-2, with Vitter voting to send the resolution to the House floor.

Representatives for both Scalise and Vitter did not respond to requests for comment.

The resolution passed in the House on a voice vote. Dorsey said she recalls Scalise voting against it on the floor by shouting, “No.”

More from The Hill: 

Read minutes from 1996 Louisiana House committee meeting

Tags Congressional Black Caucus G.K. Butterfield Louisiana Steve Scalise

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