Resolution on Obama Leads to Uproar in Ga. House
March 20, 2009 - 2:26 PMTwo dozen black lawmakers angrily stalked out of the Georgia House on Friday amid claims a decision by white Republican leaders to delay passage of a resolution honoring President Barack Obama had racist overtones.
House Speaker Glenn Richardson said the proposal to make Obama an honorary member of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus required some changes to its language and sent it to a committee. Supporters, including black lawmakers, claimed the move was a snub to the nation's first black president.
"It drips with racism," said state Rep. Al Williams, a Democrat. "I call it just like it is."
State Rep. Austin Scott said he and other Republicans objected to wording that would have put the full chamber on record backing the resolution and its declaration of Obama as a man with an "unimpeachable reputation for integrity."
He said he blocked the proposal after Democrats balked at revising the wording.
"All we've requested is minor changes to the language," he said.
Some noted it was a rare move in the Georgia Capitol, where lawmakers routinely adopt all manner of resolutions without debate and often through a show of hands, from measures honoring a constituent's wedding anniversary to others offering condolences upon a death.
The furor began Thursday when the Republican-controlled House voted 70-68 to reject the resolution. Black lawmakers then walked out Friday, seconds after leaders sent the measure to a committee for reworking.
Black lawmakers pointed out that they've gone along in the past with other largely symbolic resolutions out of respect for their colleagues, including a 2005 measure commending then-President George W. Bush's much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.
At the time, critics complained many minority residents of New Orleans bore the brunt of the 2005 storm and its aftermath.
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen said sending the resolution back to committee would help "get this language recrafted" and Richardson suggested an easy fix could be found.
"Two or three words can be changed and this matter can be voted on," said Richardson, a Republican.
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