JACKSON, Miss. – A Democratic congressman from New York says he wasn't trying to insult Mississippi in published remarks Thursday, but a Republican colleague from Mississippi says Rep. Charles Rangel should apologize to the state.
Rangel, D-N.Y., was quoted in a Thursday article in The New York Times, saying: "Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?"
Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., issued a news release criticizing Rangel's words.
"I hope his remarks are not the kind of insults, slander, and defamation that Mississippians will come to expect from the Democrat leadership in Washington, D.C.," Pickering said.
Elbert Garcia, Rangel's press secretary in New York, said Rangel had received calls Thursday about the Mississippi quote.
Garcia e-mailed The Associated Press a response from Rangel: "I certainly don't mean to offend anyone, I just love New York so much that I can't understand why everyone wouldn't want to live here."
In midterm elections this week, Democrats captured control of the U.S. House and Senate for the first time in a dozen years.
Rangel is the ranking Democrat on Ways and Means, and is in line to become chairman of the powerful tax-writing committee. The New York Times article was about how the New York congressional delegation gained political clout in the midterm elections. Rangel said, among other things, that he wants to direct more federal money to his state.
U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said he believes Mississippi will be treated fairly by Rangel and other Democratic leaders. As for Pickering's question of whether Democrats could hurt the state, Taylor said: "That's Chip."
Pickering was elected to the House in 1996 and for the first time will be a member of the minority party in Congress.
Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation and gets back more from the federal government than it pays for many programs. For example, Mississippi has one of the highest federal matching rates for Medicaid, getting back nearly $3 in federal money for every $1 of state money in the program that helps pay for health care for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children.
Mississippi also has received billions of dollars in federal relief since Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, destroying tens of thousands of homes and businesses and causing damage more than 150 miles inland.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., has been chairman of the Appropriations Committee, but will lose that position as Democrats take over the Senate majority.
Taylor, whose Bay St. Louis home was washed away by Katrina, said Rangel "was particularly helpful in the post-Katrina time" in securing money for Mississippi's recovery.
Taylor laughed as he responded to Rangel's comments about Mississippi. Taylor was stationed in New York when he was a young man in the Coast Guard. He said some New Yorkers "are stuck up about their home."
"You can tell him I want to live in Mississippi and wild elephants and tigers and bears couldn't keep me from living in Mississippi," Taylor said. "Hurricane Katrina couldn't keep me from building back here."