The No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives argued it was inappropriate for Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to shout at President Donald Trump when he was in the Capitol earlier this week.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat and frequent critic of Trump, sharply condemned the administration’s recent policy that resulted in family separation at the border, but said he disagreed with the approach taken by members of his own party to protest the President.
“I think that’s – it’s not appropriate,” he told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “Newsroom” when asked if he was comfortable with the strategy.
“But having said that there are very strong feelings, and nobody engenders stronger feelings and says worse things or acts in a more confrontational manner than the President of the United States,” he continued. “That does not, however, justify us following suit.”
Five members of the CHC – all Democrats – stood within the President’s pathway on Tuesday after he met with Republicans and held up signs, while some shouted at him over the border policy.
“Stop separating our families,” Rep. Juan Vargas of California yelled. “Mr. President, don’t you have kids? Don’t you have kids, Mr. President?”
“We won’t go away,” shouted Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York.
The President ignored them as he reached his arm in the air to wave at cameras and reporters assembled behind the group of members.
In a statement to CNN after the interview, Hoyer said he supports the CHC’s right to protest but argued members “must uphold a level of decorum.”
“As I said in my interview today, the President’s vile comments and reprehensible behavior and inhumane policies engender strong condemnation and rightfully result in deep frustration,” he said. “I do believe that the institution of Congress must uphold a level of decorum, even though the President does not. The CHC has been passionate defenders of immigrants and families, and I support their right to protest in this fight to stop child abuse, reunite families, and protect” recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Hoyer’s disapproval of the protest comes as Democrats consider potential leadership changes in the next House of Representatives should their party retake the majority. It’s widely expected that Hoyer, a longtime top Democrat who’s been in the House for nearly four decades, could compete for the speakership or majority leader position in the next Congress.
Asked about their protest tactics earlier this week by Fox News, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat who chairs the caucus and is running for governor, said the situation warranted a different responses.
“This is a very unique set of circumstances, and it requires a unique set of extraordinary efforts,” Lujan Grisham said.
Earlier in his interview, Hoyer went on to criticize the President for taking credit for signing an executive order that allows children to remain with their parents while in custody at the border.
“I don’t applaud the president. He created a crisis. He said he solved the crisis. He has not,” he said. “He can change it tomorrow. Very frankly the solution he suggests, we’re not going to wrench children from the arms of their parents. We’re going to incarcerate children with their parents. That’s not a humane.”
CNN’s Donald Judd contributed to this report.