A California congressman known for edgy sarcasm mocked an opponent of illegal immigration during a town hall meeting last week, asking, "Who are you going to kill today?" before the constituent, a self-identified Minuteman, posed his question.
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., no stranger to controversy, mocked the idea that the borders are not secure when asked about the federal government's lack of activity on border security.
"We can't get enough Minutemen armed. We'd like to get all the Minutemen armed so they can stop shooting people here," Stark said.
Eventually, members of the audience urged Stark to offer a serious answer.
"If you knew anything about our borders, you would know that's not the case. Our borders are quite secure, thank you," Stark said, drawing jeers.
Stark resumed his hostile act, asking the Minuteman what he would do to secure the border.
"I would send about about 25,000 troops for one thing and build a wall down so vehicles could not pass," the Minuteman said.
"How high and long would it be?" Stark asked.
"As high and as long as it takes," the Minuteman said, elicting cheers.
Stark said he would start a ladder company with the Minuteman if he designed the wall and doesn't shoot the people coming over.
"But I've got to know how high the wall is and I'll sell a whole lot of ladders for people who want to come," Stark said.
"This is a very serious matter and you're sitting there making fun of it," the Minuteman responded.
"I don't have to make fun of you sir, you do a fine job all by yourself," Stark said.
Stark made the comments last week at a town hall audience that included Steve Kemp, a member of the Golden Gate Minutemen, a group that opposes illegal immigrants. Kemp recorded the confrontation.
A spokesman for Stark did not return voicemail messages left at his office or on his cell phone. He also didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The clash came as the national spotlight focuses on Arizona's tough new law cracking down on illegal immigrants and the protests it is drawing across the country, including a legal challenge from the federal government.
Immigration is shaping up to be among the critical election-year issues as Republicans try to regain control of both chambers in Congress riding a wave of anti-Washington sentiment.
Stark, a liberal Democrat, is expected to easily win re-election against a lightly regarded opponent, political newcomer Justin Jelincic, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat.
Stark earned his primary challenge after he slammed a constituent who voiced his opposition to Obama's health care plan last summer at a town hall meeting.
"Mr. Congressman, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining," the constituent told Stark, referring to what he called the smoke and mirrors of the president's plan.
"I wouldn't dignify you be peeing on your leg," Stark fired back. "It wouldn't be worth wasting the urine."
In March, Stark seized control of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee for one day after Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., stepped aside due to an ethics probe. But Stark was quickly pushed aside in favor of Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., after many Democrats privately complained that Stark was too volatile to lead such an important committee.
Stark is known for making inflammatory comments.
In 2007, Stark accused President Bush of sending troops to Iraq "to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."
He also once called former Colorado Republican Rep. Scott McInnis a "fruitcake."