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Representatives argue over use of ‘socialist’ to describe members of Congress, progressive budget plan

Democratic members of Congress balked at being called socialists during a debate on Friday over the Republicans’ proposed budget and the Progressive Caucus’ proposed budget. Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama accused the progressives in Congress of being socialists who are putting America “at risk.” Rep. Keith Ellison asked that Brooks retract the word “socialist” from his remarks.

“Folks we are here today forcing this issue because America is at risk,” said Brooks. “We are at risk of insolvency and bankruptcy because the socialist members of this body choose to spend money that we do not have. They believe in wealth transfer programs.”

Rep. Ellison interrupted. “Point of order. My point of order is I would like the gentleman’s words taken down referencing members of this body as socialists.”

After some discussion, Ellison asked, “Does the gentleman withdraw his word or not?”

Brooks did, but he didn’t do so without some complaint.

“Ladies and gentlemen of America, we all know what we are talking about here and we all know the what the definitional terms are, and I’m more than happy to resume this discussion off the House floor, but for whatever reason I’m not permitted to use one word,” he said.

Friday was a day of budget battles on Capitol Hill. The Republicans put forward their budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, with massive changes to Medicare, deep cuts to social safety net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, and lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations through reforms the tax code.

Progressive Democrats put forward the People’s Budget which would raise taxes on the wealthy and propose deep cuts to defense and military spending mainly be ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After backing off his socialist claim, Brooks slammed the progressive budget proposal. “To the United States of America now, this progressive People’s Budget I submit to you is nothing more than a Trojan house. Why should anyone believe that the folks who have wracked up these massive deficit that is put America at risk are now going to change their stripes?”

California Rep. Maxine Waters of California had a different view of history.

“The gentleman from Alabama evidently has amnesia,” he said. “The Clinton administration eliminated the deficit and left a balanced budget; it was the Bush administration that created the deficit. I rise in strong support for this the Progressive Caucus’ alternative balanced People’s Budget.

She continued, “During the last administration, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle maxed out our nation’s credit card for wars and tax cuts for the rich all while saying that deficits don’t matter. Now they are in an identity crisis as a rationale to undermine programs they have never supported and push a divisive social agenda that’s a sideshow to our budget debate.”

Ellison and McCollum were the only two member of the Minnesota delegation to vote in favor of the People’s Budget, which failed with only 77 votes.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget passed the House 235-193 with no Democrats voted for it. The Minnesota delegation was split between the state’s four Democrats and four Republicans.

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