Citing how protesters surrounded a vehicle in Utah this week before one shot the driver, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called for his colleagues to unanimously pass a resolution that condemns “mob violence.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) blocked the measure, arguing that elements of the resolution weren’t straightforward enough.
Lee took to the Senate floor in Washington Thursday to announce his belief that it was important for the Senate to go on record “condemning the rising tide of mob violence we see across the country and the increasingly prevalent mob mentality that’s fueling it.”
Lee cited several recent instances, including the shooting by a protester in Utah, the assault of a Wisconsin state senator by a group that tore down two statues, and the berating of law enforcement officers for standing at their posts.
While some Americans have organized peaceful protests, other events have devolved into rioting, looting, and violence, Lee noted.
The resolution (pdf) would be “the tiniest first step of a response” but would show the nation that both Republicans and Democrats oppose the violence, Lee said, asking for unanimous consent.
After a senator asks for such consent, a single colleague can block the measure.
Menendez said he objected, arguing that the resolution made no mention “of America’s original sin, which is slavery.”
Many New Jersey residents don’t believe the United States is morally committed to justice, he argued, which would clash with the third paragraph of the resolution. That paragraph states: “The United States is a diverse nation committed to cultivating respect, friendship, and justice across all such differences, and protecting the God-given equal rights of all Americans under the law.”
“I would consider not objecting to the senator’s request if he also recognized and added to his resolution the fact that we have a president of the United States who ultimately provokes—provokes insightful language and violence,” Menendez added, noting that President Donald Trump recently shared a video that included a man saying “white power.”
Lee was willing to accept the proposed revisions except for the part about Trump, saying lawmakers shouldn’t point to one specific individual.
Menendez said he couldn’t accept the compromise, and objected.
“Just so everyone is clear about the inspired insanity we just witnessed, I just proposed a nonbinding resolution condemning mob violence and Senate Democrats objected,” Lee rejoined. “I don’t know whether to be outraged or embarrassed for them.”
Lee said, in his view, lawmakers couldn’t oppose his resolution without “being on the side of the mob violence,” prompting Menendez to appeal to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who was presiding over the hearing.
Menendez claimed that Lee’s suggestion was in direct violation of a rule that says senators shall not directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.
“The chair concludes that pointing that mob violence is dangerous to our nation is not contrary to rule 19 or any other rule of the Senate,” Cruz said.
Menendez responded by saying that the rule was violated. Cruz laughed and said senators are free to express views in the course of debate.
Menendez later said, “We have learned that my colleagues are unwilling to call out the president of the United States when the president of the United States uses language that incites violence.”
Lee pointed out that the resolution would have said all elected officials shouldn’t engage in certain acts and that the president is an elected official.
“It’s long past time to expose the shiftless idiocy of the anti-american, anti-science, anti-establishment mob and remove their snouts from the federal trough,” he said, calling for cutting federal money from colleges that punish free speech, states that force doctors to support transgenderism, and city councils that defund police departments.
“This debate is not ending today,” he said.