Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) retreated from his stated position last week that President Bush sent American soldiers to Iraq “to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.” Reversing his position that he would not apologize, Stark offered an apology to the President, his family, and the American troops that took offense to his remarks — and narrowly avoided a censure from his colleagues:
Republicans failed in an effort Tuesday to have the House censure Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who said in a congressional speech last week that U.S. troops are being sent to Iraq “to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”
Without debate, the House voted 196-173 to kill the proposal to censure Stark for “his despicable conduct.” The vote was mostly along party lines, with all 168 Republicans on hand supporting the measure offered by Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Five Democrats joined them. …
Stark initially refused to apologize despite condemnations from GOP lawmakers and others. Moments after Tuesday’s vote, however, he addressed the House to apologize to his colleagues, “to the president and his family,” and to U.S. troops offended by his remarks.
“I hope that with this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be” in the continuing debates over Iraq and health care, he said. Boehner was among those who applauded.
Stark has a long history of inflammatory remarks on the House floor, and a very short history of apologies following them. Given some of the criticism from the ranks of his own party, Stark may have had to cut a deal for an apology to keep Republicans from successfully censuring him. Five Democrats voted for the measure anyway, and Nancy Pelosi publicly chastised him for the remarks shortly after the S-CHIP debate.
It seems rather sad that 196 members of Congress couldn’t bring themselves to follow Pelosi’s lead. One wonders what kind of remarks they would find bad enough to bring censure, a rather weak response in any case.