"The level of anti-LGBT animus clearly demonstrated by Rep. Scott Garrett’s comments is astonishing.” - HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy
Scott Garrett, a seven term Republican congressman from New Jersey, appears to be hiding out after setting off a political firestorm with an anti-gay remark he made during a meeting of fellow Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee.
House Speaker John Boehner has been cracking down on renegade Republicans, including right-wingers who vote against him on procedural votes, and subcommittee chairman who don't ante up their "dues" to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has the job of recruiting Republican electoral candidates. Rep. Garrett is guilty of both.
Rep. Garrett is chairman of the Capital Markets Subcommittee which regulates Wall Street, and gives him direct access to big money donors. And though subcommittee chairman are expected to ante up a sum reflecting the importance of their appointment, Rep. Garrett has refused to pay National Republican Congressional Committee dues for the last two years. Congressman Garrett is also a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, which regularly embarasses and undermines Speaker Boehner when he believes he has a deal, and Garrett recently bucked leadership on a critical procedural vote.
According to Politico, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, (photo right) who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, was doing Speaker Boehner's bidding when he confronted Rep. Garrett at the caucus meeting, warning him that subcommittee chairmen such as Garrett were expected to support the party leadership on procedural votes and pay their “dues” to the National Republican Campaign Committee. But according to several sources in the room, Rep. Garrett fought back. He told Chairman Hensarling that his procedural vote against leadership was a matter of conscience. Then he shocked committee members with his announcement that he had not, and would not pay dues to the election arm of the GOP, because it actively recruits gay candidates and supports them in primaries.
His admission set Republicans scrambling, eager to distance themselves from Rep. Garrett.
John Traier, chairman of the Passaic County, New Jersey, Republican Organization who just this month married his longtime partner, Mark Peterson, said in an interview he would be “very disappointed” if the report about Garrett was accurate.
“If he said that, it’s taking religious conservative beliefs to an extreme,” Chairman Traier said. “We’re marginalizing ourselves as Republicans if we act that way. And that really bothers me on so many levels.”
Rep. Tom MacArthur, a Republican from Toms River, New Jersey, told reporters:
“I don’t wish anybody ill and I support my party as a big tent party. We need to find the best candidates who are going to help our district and our country. That’s what we need to be focused on. And whether people agree or disagree on one question or another shouldn’t shut that down.”
Democratic New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell was spotted carrying a copy of the Politico article about Rep. Garrett into the House chamber as members went to vote.
“It confirms what people already thought of him,” said Pascrell.
Gay rights groups were predictably angry at Rep. Garrett's remark. Garden State Equality called for other Republicans, including Governor Christie, to denounce the congressman. The group also sent out a mass email to voters in Rep. Garrett’s district, citing anti-gay remark.
The Human Rights Campaign lambasted the congressman's remarks as "bigotry." HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy posted on the HRC blog:
“The level of anti-LGBT animus clearly demonstrated by Rep. Scott Garrett’s comments is astonishing. Mean-spirited views are certainly reflected in his poor record on LGBT issues. The ultimate question now is whether or not his constituents will tolerate such harmful views in the person they send to Washington to represent them and their values.”
In Washington, there are signs Congressman Garrett is feeling the heat. NorthJersey.com reports that he has been lying low, dodging reporters, and that his staff is not returning reporters phone calls. NorthJersey.com noted that the congressman missed the last five votes before the House adjourned for the weekend. According to govtrack.us, Rep. Garrett had missed only 21 of 1,650 votes since 2013.
Rep. Garrett's admission should not come as much of a surprise. A Christian whose children were home-schooled, Garrett has a long record of opposing LGBT equality. He voted against ending DADT, and is co-sponsor of a "religious freedom" bill to allow Christians to opt out of serving gay couples weddings. And now we know he doesn't even want gays in the same party.
The next move is Speaker Boehner's, who has a history of observing the old adage, "revenge is a dish best served cold."
Feature Photo via Facebook
Jeb Hensarling's photo via Facebook
Scott Garrett's photo via Facebook