Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) blasted Republicans on Wednesday for claiming to advance racial equality amid their infighting in the House of Representatives, saying they were using her fellow Black lawmaker Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) as “a prop.”
Conservative members who refuse to back Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the new speaker of the House rallied around Donalds on Wednesday, giving him 20 votes for the speakership in the fourth and fifth rounds of voting. While nominating Donalds, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) referenced civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and said that Republicans “do not seek to judge people by the color of their skin but rather the content of their character.”
The nomination meant that for the first time in history, both major parties nominated a Black candidate to run the House. Democrats backed Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), who leads their caucus.
But Bush noted on Twitter that GOP policies offer little else to combat racism and structural inequities. “Despite being Black, [Donalds] supports a policy agenda intent on upholding and perpetuating white supremacy,” the Missouri Democrat argued.
She later expanded on her comments ― and conservative pushback to her tweet ― to HuffPost.
“My issue is not with Byron Donalds himself. My issue is not with him being Black. My issue is not with him being Republican. My issue is because he was not someone that they have been promoting for the last two years,” Bush said.
Though it is unclear who Republicans will ultimately settle on for speaker, it is extremely unlikely that their choice will be Donalds, who has only served one term in Congress. Far-right figures are also pushing for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other more prominent alternatives.
The congresswoman noted that in claiming to be sincerely promoting Donalds, GOP lawmakers spoke about his niceness, background ― like Jeffries, Donalds is from New York ― and his past struggles.
“It seems as if they’re using him as a prop, as a tool, not because they think that he’s great, that he’s done all of these things to lead them,” Bush said. “I don’t like that they’re using him that way. I don’t want them to use him that way. And I want him to understand: They’re only using you… don’t let them do that to you. Make them treat you with dignity and respect.”
She continued: “To hear Chip Roy stand up and say this is not about color … it absolutely 100% is because if you were nominating him on his worth and merit, I think none of us would have been surprised because we would have seen him do leadership things.”
The congresswoman deflected conservative criticism of her remarks.
“I’m glad they took offense because it shows their lack of knowledge. It shows how ignorant they are. I need them to read up and understand what white supremacy is, what it looks like, and what the patriarchal system looks like,” Bush added.
Donalds is a hardcore supporter of Donald Trump, the former president who questioned the citizenship of the country’s first Black president, pledged to ban Muslims from entering American borders, referred to COVID-19 as “kung flu,” cast Mexican immigrants as rapists and frequently spurred on white nationalists.
Donalds supported Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate, voting to reject state-certified results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. He is close with controversial Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and has opposed gun control and the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.
Despite views that are out of step with most Black voters, Donalds has argued that he can help Republicans end their decadeslong failure to attract major Black support. “Black voters are more open to hearing both sides of the political argument for the first time in a long time,” he told Politico last year. “And if Republicans are there to provide a policy option to be solutions-focused, then I think you’ll see a lot more Black voters become Republican voters.”
The congressman responded to Bush on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
“Before you judge my agenda, let’s have a debate over the policies and the outcomes,” Donalds wrote. “Until then, don’t be a crab in a barrel!”