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A Republican Lawmaker Allegedly Yelled At A Democrat: "Go Back To Puerto Rico"

"I would hope that we could refrain from any implications that have any undertones of prejudice, or racism, or any kind of -ism that would diminish the character and integrity of one of our members."

Last updated on January 17, 2019, at 6:34 p.m. ET

Posted on January 17, 2019, at 4:26 p.m. ET

Brian Snyder / Reuters

WASHINGTON — A Republican lawmaker yelled at Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas to “go back to Puerto Rico” across the aisle on the House floor Thursday.

Steny Hoyer, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, took to the floor later in the day to admonish the Republican. Politico first reported that Republican Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri was responsible for the comment.

“I don’t want any argument, we needn’t debate on this, but unfortunately, at a height I know of a lot of emotion, one of our members — respected member of our caucus, Tony Cárdenas ... who is by the way from California, was met with a call from the other side of the aisle to return to Puerto Rico,” Hoyer said.

“We ought to all be cognizant of the fact that we need to be civil to one another. We need to be polite to one another, even. We can disagree very strongly, and obviously we do on issue to issue ... but I would hope that we could refrain from any implications that have any undertones of prejudice, or racism, or any kind of -ism that would diminish the character and integrity of one of our members.”

According to a statement from Cárdenas, Smith called him later in the day and “took responsibility for the comment and sincerely apologized. I accepted his apology.”

Cárdenas, a California lawmaker who is the chair of the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was born in Los Angeles and is the son of immigrants from Mexico.

Cárdenas and other lawmakers traveled to Puerto Rico over the weekend for a trip focused at least in part on the devastation of Hurricane Maria, and reportedly included a performance of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Conservatives criticized the delegation as a trip to the beach during the still-ongoing partial government shutdown.

Here's Hoyer on the floor talking about the GOP lawmaker who told Cardenas to "return to Puerto Rico." Cardenas went on the floor shortly after and didn't mention it.

Smith’s office said that his comment “was directed at all the Democrats who were vacationing down in Puerto Rico last weekend during the government shutdown, not towards any individual member,” according to Politico. BuzzFeed News has reached out to his office.

The “return to Puerto Rico” remark comes days after the House voted on a resolution of disapproval against white supremacy following racist remarks from Iowa Rep. Steve King. Hoyer noted that in his floor remarks.

The remark occurred earlier Thursday during an argument over a vote to reopen the federal government. Democrats had passed a bill by voice vote and Republicans wanted a full recorded vote to register their opposition.

Cárdenas’s statement said the two lawmakers agreed to get to know each other better.

“There is a saying that I was taught by my parents, De todo lo malo, siempre sale algo bueno, which in English means, ‘From everything bad, something good will come of it,’” Cárdenas said. “I look forward to working with and getting to know Congressman Smith in the months ahead.”


This article has been updated with comment from Rep. Tony Cárdenas's office.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.