OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma congressman apologized on Friday for suggesting that "killing a couple" of U.S. senators may be the only way to get a budget passed through Congress.
U.S. Rep. John Sullivan made the comments Wednesday during a town hall meeting in Bixby. When asked about federal spending, the Tulsa Republican expressed his frustration with the Senate for its failure to approve a budget.
"I'd love to get them to vote for it," Sullivan said at the event. "Boy, I'd love that, you know. But other than me going over there with a gun and pointing it to their head and maybe killing a couple of `em, I don't think they're going to listen unless they get beat."
Sullivan's comments were first posted on the political blog Talking Points Memo.
Sullivan spokesman Vaughn Jennings said Friday that the congressman was speaking off the cuff during the town hall meeting and sincerely apologized for his remarks. Jennings added that Sullivan also spoke during the event about the importance of civility in Washington.
"The congressman offers his sincere apologies to anyone he offended and for using a poor choice of words to make his point – which was that Senate Democrats are refusing to pass a budget or even vote on the 28 House-passed jobs bills," Jennings said in a statement. "Millions of Americans are hurting – the Congressman feels their pain, and does not want his comments to deflect attention away from the serious issues our country faces today, and he certainly does not condone any form of violence as a means to fix what is broken in Washington."
Jennings said the congressman has not been contacted by law enforcement about his remarks.
Sullivan's comments drew criticism from U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., a longtime proponent of stricter gun laws whose husband was killed and her son severely injured during a mass shooting on a Long Island Rail Road train in 1993.
"Mr. Sullivan's remarks show a staggering insensitivity to the families of 30-plus Americans that are killed by gunfire every single day," McCarthy said in a statement. "This kind of rhetoric helps illustrate just how hard it is to pass sensible laws to reduce gun violence in the Republican-controlled House."
The vice chairman of the Tulsa Democratic Party said Sullivan's comment "exceeds the limits of poor taste by miles," particularly in the wake of a January 2011 shooting in Arizona that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Sullivan's former colleague U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head.
"Metaphor or not, your words suggested to the community that violence is a solution if you do not agree with an elected official's point of view," Michael Whelan wrote in a letter to Sullivan. "While the political discourse in Washington may be ugly these days, it is incumbent upon our leaders to set the example and to calm the toxic firestorms brewing within their perspective parties. Your statements poured fuel on that fire."
It's not the first time an Oklahoma lawmaker has faced criticism for remarks about guns. At a town hall meeting in Langley in August, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, in describing his frustration with Congress, said: "It's a good thing I can't pack a gun on the Senate floor."
Coburn's office quickly issued an apology on the senator's behalf, but Coburn himself told his critics to "get over it."
"Political correctness is B.S.," Coburn told The Associated Press at the time. "Tell `em to get over it. It was a joke and everybody laughed. That's all I have to say about it."
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy