The House Republican caucus will not take DFL Minority Leader Melissa Hortman's barbs lying down.
Quickly, Republicans: To the paperwork!
On Friday, dozens of GOP House members signed on to a "protest and dissent" letter aimed at Hortman, who last week made national news for a comment about a "100 percent white male card game" in the retiring room just off the House chamber.
In a subsequent response on the House floor, Hortman explained that she'd noticed far too often when people of that race and gender were absent for floor speeches by women, and "women of color" in particular.
House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin took issue with Hortman's assertion right away, calling it "racist." Later, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, the most experienced Republican in the House, also said the statement was "racist," adding it had created a "very hostile working environment," and called on Hortman to resign.
In the letter entered into the official House of Representatives journal, members say Hortman "needlessly invoked the race and gender of her colleagues," and "called into question" their motives. Neither, they claim, would be allowed under Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, which governs debate conduct in the state Legislature.
The letter continues:
"We the undersigned Members of the House of Representatives admonish Minority Leader Hortman for her statements. We implore Minority Leader Hortman to apologize for her actions and strive to repair the damage she has caused to the collaborative work environment at the Minnesota House of Representatives.”
House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Peppin both signed the letter, which was essentially the more officious version of Forest Lake GOP Rep. Bob Dettmer's complaint on the floor, immediately after she'd made 'white male' comment. Hortman didn't apologize then...
...and on Friday evening, issued the following statement in response to the GOP letter:
"I'm still not sorry."
That's it. That's the whole statement. The Legislature's off for Easter/Passover break this week, and Hortman said she would address the controversy upon its return.
The deep, bitter irony is what started this fight in the first place: Hortman's DFL colleagues were giving speeches against a Republican public safety bill that would increase criminal penalties for demonstrators arrested blocking highways. Hortman wanted Republicans to at least pay attention while their colleagues told them their bill was a strike against the First Amendment right to protest.
Turns out, Republicans absolutely believe in the right to "dissent" and "protest" -- so long as the topic is how the mean lady hurt their feelings.