POLITICS
01/12/2015 02:14 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2015

Nancy Pelosi Says Steve Scalise Controversy Reflects 'Bothersome' GOP Attitude Toward Minorities

WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the fact that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) once gave a speech to a white supremacist group reflects a "bothersome" attitude by GOP lawmakers toward minorities.

During a wide-ranging interview on Friday with The Huffington Post, Pelosi drew a connection between Scalise's 2002 speech to a Louisiana group founded by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and the fact that House Republicans haven't taken any action to restore the Voting Rights Act or to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"If you look at what Mr. Scalise said, in the context of no voting rights bill and no immigration bill, then you start to see an attitude," Pelosi said. "And that really is bothersome."

She called it "offensive" that Republicans didn't advance a bipartisan bill last year to reinstate a portion of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2013. The court ruled that Congress needed to update the 1965 landmark law to re-designate which regions of the country have a history of minority voter suppression and require the federal government to clear changes to their voting laws.

Prospects for action on a Voting Rights Act fix in this Congress aren't good. Republicans control both chambers now, and only a handful of them signed on to the House bill put forward last year. The Senate bill had no GOP co-sponsors.

Still, if Republicans want to repair their image among minorities, Pelosi said, the "most eloquent statement" they could make would be to pass a voting rights bill.

Republican Party leaders have been talking about the need to reach out more to minorities and women since the 2012 elections, but their record has been mixed.

Pelosi hasn't said anything publicly about Scalise's controversy until now, although her spokesman issued a statement late last month, when the story first broke, that called the GOP leader's remarks "deeply troubling."

Scalise has said he regrets giving the speech and maintains that he didn't know he was speaking to a neo-Nazi group at the time.

Pelosi wouldn't say Friday whether she thought Scalise should step down from leadership.

"It's up to the Republicans to decide who their leadership is, not me," she said. "I won't go there."

HuffPost

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