Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Boehner, Cantor Turned Down Chance to Speak at March Anniversary (Updated)

Updated 5:23 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the House’s two most senior Republicans, were invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington — but declined.

That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.

“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.

“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ’em this way.”

According to Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel, the Ohio Republican “was invited, but spoke at the Congressional ceremony instead, as did Sens. Reid and McConnell, and Rep. Pelosi.”

Cantor, meanwhile, was asked 12 days ago to participate in Wednesday’s event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s delivery of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, according to an aide. The Virginia Republican, however, is currently traveling in North Dakota and Ohio, touring energy sites with Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and participating in “nonofficial events,” according to an aide.

Cantor’s decision to turn down the invitation to speak is especially striking given his stated commitment to passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act in the 113th Congress, and the many opportunities he has taken over the past several weeks to publicly reflect on the experience of traveling with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to Selma, Ala.

“The Leader hopes it’s an outstanding event fitting of the incredible legacy of Dr. King and is honored to have had the ability to honor that legacy earlier this year” with Lewis, said Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper.

While Cantor and Boehner were among the Republicans who were invited, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only African-American in the Senate, was not invited, his office told CQ Roll Call.

According to a list obtained by CQ Roll Call, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was also invited to speak at Wednesday’s events, but according to a spokesman, the lawmaker was in Arizona all week with a schedule full of public events.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was also asked to attend in lieu of his brother, President George W. Bush, who reportedly had to turn down the invitation as he recovered from surgery due to an arterial blockage — not, as Bond suggested, he had to stay to attend to his also-ailing father.

“This was truly a bipartisan outreach effort,” said a spokesperson for the event in an email statement to CQ Roll Call. “All members of congress were invited to attend and the Republican leadership was invited to speak. Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office was very helpful in trying to find someone to speak at the event. Making this commemoration bi-partisan was especially important to members of the King family, too.”

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

  • Don Seymour

    You can watch the full Congressional ceremony with Speaker Boehner and House/Senate leaders commemorating the March on Washington here:

  • PV Maro

    I can just imagine what a wonderful reception any Republican would have gotten.

    The only Republican who might have been well-received is the only African-American currently serving in the United States Senate: Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

    HE wasn’t invited, of course.

    • QueenofSheba

      He was invited to attend the ceremony, but not to speak. He is not a congressional leader.

      • weepforthefuture

        Either is Sharpton.

  • johnblack45john

    And they are suppose to be the big tent party? What a joke.

    • neonnautilus

      That tent is big because they have turned into a circus in a tent filled with clowns.

  • oldhandatthis

    This is very sad and reflects poorly on Republicans. It makes you wonder what they feared, a bad reception from the crowd or later on from within their party. I can’t imagine the crowd would be impolite or disrespectful.

    • cettel

      I’m a Democrat, and you say that this story “reflects poorly on Republicans,” but instead this story reflects poorly on the reporter, Emma Dumain, because she doesn’t indicate whether the response of congressional Democrats was any better; so, the presumed distinction between the two Parties is neither confirmed nor disconfirmed in this news report. Emma Dumain isn’t intelligent enough to ask herself the type of questions that a competent news reporter wonders about; so, she also doesn’t answer such questions. This news report is a discredit to Roll Call.

      • gbshaun

        Cettel, the desire was to make it a BI-PARTISAN event. Democrats were already very well represented. No need to keep inviting.

        • Byron

          why wouldn’t a Republican want to go. It was nothing but an event the Democrats co-opted in order to sell all their looney left wing agenda items. The democrat party opposed all those civil rights changes, they were the ones who created the KKK and wrong the segregation laws.
          You democrats must have been high during history class.

          • Chinwe Okorie

            You do realize the 1950-1960s democratic coalition changed once its member were split on Black civil rights?! Meaning, conservative democrats who didn’t agree liberal dems merged with conservative republican and becoming what we know them today..republicans. love how people forget to read their history book.

      • MVH1

        I think you missed the point entirely.

      • aconservativeteacher

        Boehner spoke at a ceremony that Pelosi spoke at. Other other Republicans mentioned also had prior engagements. You can debate breaking off those engagements for this event if you want, but you don’t know when they were scheduled or what they were about, so that debate would probably just be pure speculation. Another article indicates that Boehner was asked 12 days ago- I imagine he had already made many commitments already, and who invites the Speaker to a long planned major event only 12 days before it- seems kind of last minute.

        Other Republicans (like Tim Scott) weren’t invited. We are not provided with information as to how many Democrats were invited and whether or not they were able to attend or not, so we have no basis of comparison. This is a poor story. No real conclusions can be drawn from it.

        • standbehindtheyellowline

          I would bet more Democrats that were not invited as a spectator or speaker showed up anyway. It does sound a bit silly to me that you should want a comparison from someone else, did you not see all the Democrats that were there?

        • samborg

          Rep. Tim Scott was indeed invited. All members of congress were invited. Are we to believe that Republicans are simply more busy than Democrats, and thus weren’t as able to attend the event?

        • aleman1948

          Boehner spent the day in Jackson Hole, Wyoming without any listed public events. Some conflict that would prevent him from appearing, eh?

          If you had actually bothered to read the article above you would have seen that ALL members of congress were invited to speak, and that includes Sen. Scott.

          • aconservativeteacher

            I did read the article. Quote “The Senate’s only black lawmaker wasn’t invited to speak at Wednesday’s 50th anniversary March on Washington, because Tim Scott’s office declined an invitation to attend the ceremony as a spectator, according to a source connected to the event.”

            So HE WASN’T INVITED TO SPEAK… but a couple weeks before the event a form letter was sent to every Congressman inviting them to stop by.

            Anyone have any idea of when President Obama was INVITED TO SPEAK at this event? Was it earlier than Aug 8th? The others who spoke- when did each get INVITED TO SPEAK?

            I really hope that someone didn’t use this event to try to smear Republicans by playing games with invitations- to play political games here would be pretty low.

      • oldhandatthis

        The Democrats were well represented at the event and the Republicans were not.

      • Pith_n_Vinegar

        “doesn’t indicate whether the response of congressional Democrats was any better;”

        Who showed up?

    • Jeff Krasney

      Having Al Sharpton speak at this event reflects very poorly on its organizers. The civil rights groups rule by intimidating people into being afraid of characterization as racist. There just aren’t very many Republicans who want to show up for an event where people like Al Sharpton enjoy a place of honor.

      • SpiritOnParole

        Thats asinine.

        • neonnautilus

          Actually it’s worse than asinine.

      • Jo Hargis

        @Jeff Krasney: LMAOOOOOOOOOOOO. Are you for real? Do you ever listen to yourself? Holy crap, what planet are YOU residing on?

        Take a bath. Your bigotry is showing around the edges there.

        • B. Victor Adams

          Planet RepubliCon.

        • Jeff Krasney

          You illustrate my point about intimidating people by characterizing them as racists.

      • hepette

        scared to death of huge al sharpton who indeed has lost a lot of weight….they cant stand the truth of sharpton’s verbiage. you repukes are always crying about al and jesse. who do you think would promote blacks causes?????????rick perry or sanitorium or who?????????????lolololololol

    • Jo Hargis

      I think a “bad reception” was the least of their worries. Think about it: The GOP is supposed to come speak at this event about **civil rights** while at the exactly same moment in time, they’ve pulled out all stops to deprive voters of ….wait for it ….their **civil rights**.

      The hypocrisy would be stunning. Not that that has ever stopped the GOP. Frankly, as much as a sincere bipartisan effort would have been lovely, attendance by ANY republican would have been a spit in the eye to anyone who has ever suffered in the history of the civil rights movement.

      • pndlumswing

        You’re a funny little person and misdirected…I guess all the numerous other things listed, requiring valid I.D., deprive us ALL of our ….wait for it….**civil rights** Talk about hypocrisy LMAO

        • Thx4Fsh

          The right to vote is enshrined in the Bill of Rights because it allows us to participate in democracy. Things like cashing a check or boarding an airplane are business transactions having nothing to do with the government or Constitutional rights. There is no comparison. And its not all about the IDs. Limiting early voting and shortening voting hours are a direct attack on targeted communities. Your argument is thin and lacking in logic.

          • Byron

            I have a right to bear arms, does that mean I don’t have to show ID to buy a gun?

          • VirginiaJeff

            No, you do NOT have to show ID to buy a gun. How do you not know that??

          • eric

            Yes you do have to show ID

      • Byron

        do you really believe that rotgut or are you just mouthing what you’ve been told?

        It was ironic to watch the democrats co-opt an event commerating the civil rights changes their party opposed, to sell every looney left wing wet-dream from socialized medicine to the global warming scam.
        The civil rights battle has been won, a long time ago. Today its nothing but a political tool to silence criticism of the first black President.

        • nycguy

          The civil rights fight is much bigger than Obama. It’s because of close mindedness like what you’re displaying that the battle has NOT been won yet.

    • Byron

      you can’t imagine that? Look up the Wellstone memorial and then get back to us

      • oldhandatthis

        Get back to US? Do you use the royal we? Your comment makes no sense to me.

  • ErikDC

    It was pretty noticeable no one was there to represent the Republican Party. But that’s what people have come to expect from the GOP. Of course, the expected is why the party hasn’t done well in the last 2 presidential elections. Only when the party presents an image that’s unexpected will it have success again.

    • Jeff Krasney

      Judging from your posts and your shirtless photo, I gather that you are a member of the Democrat Party’s most important group of financial contributors. I know its hard to see the world through someone else’s eyes. However, you should realize that you see the world through a very narrow lens that exists only in Dupont Circle, Greenwich Village and a few other trendy neighborhoods in America’s biggest cities.

      Republicans, like everyone else, generally do not like to attend events where the best they can hope for is to be treated with smug contempt, and at worst, will be physically attacked. Your life experiences should give you some insight into how this feels.

      • Rhondayes

        Smug contempt? PHYSICAL attacks? What planet do you live on. Please provide the class with a link where this has happened to others like them when they’ve attended events where the audience was primarily Black American. Thank you.

        I mean…lol…Romney was rude to the NAACP; offensive, in fact, but was shown respect. The lies you must tell yourselves and each other to maintain your contempt and hatred and deliberate misunderstanding for people not like you. I feel sorry for you. You will always be victim to your social filter.

        • emmasgirl

          Yes, why do GOPers believe it is a brave act to speak before a black audience? In fact, I thought the Howard University students were quite polite to Rand Paul.

          • Rhondayes

            These are the same people that offer some of the ugliest statistics available regarding social issues and crime rates; only to learn they are pulling from the 1990s.
            They want to believe…desperately believe the numbers are the same and they can continue to level the same charges and contempt or feel superior to to serve the narrative in the heads and community, because they ‘ve not lived up to their promise or racial advantages and entitle.ents.

      • standbehindtheyellowline

        Judging from your blank look on your photo, I gather you have no experience with the up lifting message of MLK!

        • hepette

          lmao has nerve enough to criticize other’s photos but too cowardly to put up his own!

          • standbehindtheyellowline

            I have found that often in the RWNJ’s circle. Yepper, pretty f’ing funny.

      • ErikDC

        Others have already said what needed to be said.

        I do like how you worked in Dupont Circle and Greenwich Village. That was clever.

        But yes, I am a young gay male. My lens is not as narrow as you think. I do have extended family in Virginia and Pennsylvania — those perennial battleground states that seem beyond the GOP’s grasp of late. My extended family used to be all Republican. Now most vote Democrat.

        If recent presidential elections are any indication, there must be a lot of people like that in Pennsylvania and Virginia..

  • The Outlaw Josey Wales

    Well duh, they don’t reach out to the low info voter……you would have to get Alfred E Newman to speak at an event like that.

  • cablejunkie

    fox no news and tubby limbog would not have approved.

  • HinterlandG

    This reflects very poorly on the Republican Party and it’s continuing problem with diversity. I guess people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity wouldn’t approve.

    • Jeff Krasney

      I think conservative commentators would take a dim view of a token Republican who went up to the podium and told the crowd what it wanted to hear about how racist the Republican Party is. On the other hand, they would probably applaud a Republican who unapologetically spoke truth to power by talking about the real problems facing blacks in the U.S, today.

      • Asher B. Garber

        As opposed to all of those fake problems.

    • aconservativeteacher

      No it doesn’t Speaker Boehner was at an event commemorating the March on Washington. Cantor already had numerous prior commitments, as did John McCain. The Bush’s had various illnesses they are dealing with. And that’s all the Republicans that we know were invited. Another article mentions that Boehner was asked 12 days prior- a long planned event only asked the Speaker of the House 12 days prior, knowing he likely had many commitments already. Other Republicans were not asked- Tim Scott, the only black Senator (and he’s a Republican), was not asked. For that matter, we have no idea how many Democrats were asked and turned it down. So this article doesn’t really give anyone a basis one way or another to draw any sort of conclusions

      • Rhondayes

        It was just a courtesy invite. no big deal. Didn’t want to be accused of exclusion. Now they can’t say they wanted to attend, but wasn’t invited.

  • kaydenpat

    They weren’t missed. It was a wonderful day.

  • Jeff Krasney

    Judging from the other comments I read below, I wish Rush Limbaugh was one of the speakers today if his safety could have been assured. He is probably the best public speaker in America today and would have said something worth listening to. Nothing said at the Lincoln Memorial today will be remembered even a week from now.

    • shorty5704

      oh how you wish,

    • Asher B. Garber

      Yes. Nothing like commemorating a great man like Dr. King with words like Libtard and Feminazi.

      As long as his Oxycontin is within arm’s reach, Rush’s safety is assured. I can guarantee you that.

    • pat10

      “The Best Public Speaker in America Today”??? Lumpy???? Do you two share those Oxycontins from Yabba the Huge’s Addiction bottle????
      Something is Srsly wrong with you Mentally if you think Lumpy is a Speaker Period, let alone a Good one, lmao!
      You probably consider Faux a Real News Program too, Right??
      WOW, if by some fluke the Krotch Bros, etc., are able to buy

  • TheDevil

    To all the cons griping about who was and wasn’t invited – this was most likely a setup in part – that’s why some of these guys should’ve showed up.

    This is the way politics is played – you’re all fond of the phrase, “man up,” so do it and stop crying about getting punked .


    What did we expect?
    They can’t risk pissing off
    their constituents, even tho’
    most won’t even be around to
    VOTE in the upcoming elections.
    The GOP is a dying party…..

  • lakestevens

    So…why wasn’t the only black U.S. senator, Tim Scott, asked to speak at the MLK Jr event? This reflects poorly on the event.

  • Meg Sampson

    Eric Cantor’s aide’s call him “The Leader”?

    “The Leader hopes it’s an outstanding event fitting of the incredible legacy of Dr. King and is honored to have had the ability to honor that legacy earlier this year” with Lewis, said Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper.

    He must have an ego the size of Antarctica

  • emmasgirl

    Not even Mitch McConnell, who claims he was at the March 50 years ago???

  • standbehindtheyellowline

    Bill O’Reilly said tonight on his show that NO REPUBLICANS were invited to speak or attend the anniversary celebration. I wonder where Billy got his info?

    • Bob Smetters

      Yes, Ive been reading that on conservative sites also… which is it, they declined or were not invited?

      • standbehindtheyellowline

        Some were asked to speak and declined and all were invited to attend. Their choice, not a good one but theirs to make.

    • Barry_D

      I’ll give you a hint – you really don’t want to see the ‘data production’ process :) It takes place in his office, with his pants down.

  • Robert Alexander

    It is no surprise in NC where racism is alive and thriving with the Governor and the Republican legislature doing all in their power to make it more difficult for students, and minorities to vote. What the GOP is afraid of is voter participation.

  • Bob Smetters

    I just read on another site they were not invited. Which is true?

    • hepette

      consider the source

    • Ara

      All the republicans invited declined except Abe, because he had nothing better to do and he happened to be just sitting there.

  • Disqus1

    So why wasnt the ONLY black Senator invited?

    • weepforthefuture

      Two reasons: 1) He is a Republican, 2) he does not fit their narrative of a victim. Sen. Scott was raised poor in a single parent home and pulled himself up by his own boot straps.

      • BRobCleveland

        He was invited. He chose not to attend. So why the lie? Why isn’t the truth good enough?

    • urnumbersix

      He was.

      I’m sure he’ll tell Fox some B.S. about the invitation “getting lost in the mail” or some crap.

      But he was invited.
      And since Cantor admits “scrambling” to get a Republican to speak, it is obvious that he would have asked Scott. Seems he asked lots of folks, who all declined.

      Unless Republicans all are lying about everything, and had decided in advance that NO Republican would attend.

      Dumb to deny it – because the truth comes out eventually.

  • Pith_n_Vinegar

    How’s that outreach goin’ babeh?

  • CandideThirtythree

    Just more proof that the GOP is the racist party

  • Ara

    How can a republican politician attend and celebrate a commemoration of a civil rights event in front of a group of labor leaders, activists, community organizers and leaders and descendants of the movement who struggled and suffered for so long in the advancement of their cause and have a clear conscience?

    That would be a morally and intellectually dishonest act, specially when one’s political actions stand opposed to and whose ideological compass points to an entirely different direction than the ones of the audience and attendees. So declining to attend was probably the right thing to do, and as a bonus, one doesn’t risk upsetting the political base back home. But the sweetest irony was the statue of the man sitting in the background and wincing in discomfort at the devolution of his party.

    • Janet Reno

      Ridiculous, ignorant slander.

      The 1964 Civil Rights Act was an update of Republican Senator Charles Sumner’s 1875 Civil Rights Act. And Democrats filibustered the Act in 1964, led by beloved Democrat Robert Byrd, who said in 1945:

      “Rather I should die a thousand times, and see old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels.”

      Democrats were the KKK. Lester Maddox was a Democrat. Bull Connor was a Democrat.

      It is the left who are the racists and should be wincing.

      “Progressive” Rallyists Call for Lynching of Clarence Thomas

      1993 Jesse Jackson:
      “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

      • BRobCleveland

        Those were liberal and moderate GOPers who voted for the civil rights acts. Those were conservative Dems and conservative GOPers who opposed them. So let’s not try to obfuscate the facts — cons sided with the racists and against the MLKs of the world.

  • dallasne

    What ever happened to “one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”. Obviously, Republicans are not about to drink from that cup. Not while that black man is President.

    • Kelsonus

      After God was booed at the DNC convention, you use that as an example?!?
      Sheep, the whole lot of ya

      • dallasne

        I don’t know what you are talking about and it certainly has nothing to do with what I said. What ever you’re smoking is making you loco.

        • Kelsonus

          Not loco but I appreciate your concern
          Using a non PC term like that will not ingratiate you among your progressive friends…just a thought

          Back to your rambli…er point(s)
          You asked what happened to “one nation, under God…”
          And then tried to suggest it was the GOP that strayed away from those hallowed words
          I was trying to remind you of last year’s democrat convention where God was booed:

          “(CNN) – Democrats omitted the word “God” from their 2012 platform,
          a change from the party’s 2008 document and a noticeable split from
          Republicans, who mention God ten times in their official party stance.”
          You should know who your ‘friends’ are

          Now I image your point was focused instead on the false premise that the right opposes having a black man as prez as opposed to the other 2 sentences but with all that you said not being reality, I focused on what was said first

          As to the right not liking black folks, I believe we’re more focused on “content of character” as opposed “to color of skin”:

          I appreciate you allowing me to expand my remarks
          Good luck on your homework
          Vaya con Dios

          • dallasne

            What is this, opposites day? You should be more careful with your use of King’s words for surely they do not fit current Republicans. Content of their character should not be used in the same sentence with Republican stars like Steve King, Louis Gohmert and Bob McDonald or even the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. Lack of character is exactly what led every Republican that was invited to the 50th anniversary celebration to decline the invitation to speak.

          • Kelsonus

            Both side have horrendous individual within the parties
            Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer, Eric Holder, and Bob Filner come to mind. Term limits are needed.

            Lack of wanting to appear to stand with those who have fallen away from Dr King’s words are the reason you didn’t have both sides of the spectrum represented
            Lack of wanting to appear with those who espouse ( not all who attended) Socialism, Marxism, Progressivism

          • Asher B. Garber

            You sure think highly of yourself. It’s sad that you’ve got a handy graphic showing us the non-White faces of the GOP.

          • Kelsonus

            Just research, a novel concept I might suggest
            No ego required

          • Asher B. Garber

            Hmmmm…. Brevity may be something you’d want to look into. Ever hear of Less as being More? Anyway, your chart– which as you know is the heart of my comment– shows a desperation on your behalf to suggest the GOP likes their Black people just fine. I think that’s the phrase used… Our Blacks versus Their Blacks.

            The all-inclusive GOP… What fun you all seem to have.

          • Kelsonus

            Not our blacks, those who happen to think in a more Conservative bent, and who happen to be black
            Content of character and all that…
            As for less is more, you cannot lecture me on Eastern philosophies. Lao Tzu was a mentor

          • Asher B. Garber

            Less is more in terms of efficient writing. Y’know, which is what we were kind of discussing in this thread. Eastern philosophy hasn’t been touched on until you misapplied its significance to this thread.

  • Rachael N. Jacobs

    Why would any republican or conservative of sound mind show up at a political rally for ODeathCare? The festivities were not about MLK and what he truly believed, they were about Osatan and his evil plans for America and Americans. No person in his right mind (or her right mind) would ever be at such an event because it would have been for all the wrong reasons, just as it was for Osatan, little Al, little Jesse and Slick Willy.

  • QuartetmanIA

    Is there a list of Democrats who did not attend the March on Washington event at the Lincoln Memorial? If you’re going to crucify Republicans for not attending, then we need to have a list of Democrats who did not attend so Julian Bond can denounce them too.
    ( Fat chance I’ll ever see that list!)

  • steve

    I once thought I understood racism but the repubs have shown us all that it’s far more hateful and shameful than a person can imagine.

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