White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest would not say Monday whether Rep. Steve Scalise should give up his leadership spot for speaking to a white supremacist group in 2002, but he did say that if the House allows him to remain majority whip it would say a lot about Republicans “priorities and values.”
Earnest said President Barack Obama believes it’s up to Republicans to decide whether Scalise should remain in leadership this week when lawmakers return to Washington.
“There is no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate to a leadership position says a lot about what the conferences priorities and values are,” Earnest told reporters at his daily briefing. “Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So, it'll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”
So far, other House leaders have said they support Scalise even though he said he made ‘an error in judgment’ in speaking to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, as a state legislator.
Democrats argue that allowing Scalise to remain the third-ranking House Republican undermines the principles the party claims to stand for.
“As the new Congress begins, nothing discredits Republican claims of ‘outreach’ and bringing people together more than their decision to keep Steve Scalise at the top tier of the elected leadership of their caucus,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic NationalCommittee.
Earnest echoed those sentiments.
“We’re also heard a lot from Republicans, particularly over the last few years, including the chairman of the Republican party, about how Republicans need to broaden their appeal to young people and to women, to gays and to minorities, that the success of their party will depend on their ability to broaden that outreach,” he said. “So it ultimately will be up to individual Republicans in Congress to decide whether or not elevating Mr. Scalise into leadership will effectively reinforce that strategy.”