Rep. Pete Stark Apologizes For Suggesting Bush Enjoys Troop Deaths in Iraq
WASHINGTON – Democratic Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark of California apologized Tuesday for comments he made last week suggesting President Bush was sending troops to Iraq to get their "heads blown off for his amusement."
The apology came after the House voted 196-173 with eight members voting present to table a resolution introduced by House Minority Leader John Boehner censuring Stark.
Click here to see how your representative voted.
Though the motion amounts to a failed vote, Stark addressed fellow lawmakers afterward to apologize.
"I want to apologize first of all to my colleagues, many of whom I have offended, to the president. his family, to the troops that may have found (offense) in my remarks as were suggested in the motion that we just voted on, and I do apologize. ... With this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be and we can return to the issues that do divide us but that we can resolve," Stark said to applause.
After his mea culpa, Stark walked walked off the floor to the Democratic side of the chamber and for at least five minutes stood sobbing while fellow Democrats gathered around him. Reporters close to the Speaker's Lobby were not able to hear why he was crying.
Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who was one of the members gathered around Stark, told FOX News that the war is taking a great toll on members of Congress who are going to funerals of soldiers, seeing veterans returning from war and not getting the services they need and listening to the views of their constituents.
The Iraq war "takes a great toll on members ... within that context their measure is tested, but there's not that much in the cup because it's so painful to face this and detest what's going on," Kaptur said without excusing Stark's original gaffe. "People here aren't like buttons on a computer. We are human ... we all have weakness and say things that we wish we hadn't said."
Stark's emotional demeanor was in direct contrast to his position last week, outlined in the eight-paragraph resolution that claimed his "personally abusive language" impugned the president's and Congress' motives and dishonored the troops.
The resolution quoted Stark and then concluded that "Mr. Stark, by his despicable conduct, has dishonored himself and brought discredit to the House and merits the censure of the House for the same. Resolved, that the member from California, Mr. Stark, is hereby so censured."
Stark's original comments came before a failed override vote on the president's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Criticizing the president for his refusal to add $35 billion over five years to expand SCHIP to 10 million kids, Stark said Bush is able to find money for the troops, but not for children's health.
"You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement," Stark said.
"President Bush's statements about children's health shouldn't be taken any more seriously than his lies about the war in Iraq. The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up in Iraq, in the United States, and in Congress. I urge my colleagues to vote to override his veto," he continued.
With demands from House Republicans to apologize, Stark then said he neither respects "the commander-in-chief who keeps (the troops) in harm's way nor the chicken hawks in Congress."
Asked to reprimand Stark, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week called the comments "inappropriate" and distracting from the the subject at hand.
On Tuesday before the vote, Republican lawmakers slammed Stark for the comments.
"For him to insult out military men and women because he is trying to degrade the commander-in-chief is just plain wrong. He should be thanking them for their service," said Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Va.
"Stark blatantly violated the rules of the House. We can not let that stand to bring discredit on the House of Representatives," said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas.
FOX News' Molly Hooper contributed to this report.