WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer choked up Wednesday morning recounting how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
“To tear a speech that contained the names of those who have given their lives for this country,” the Nebraska Republican said, her voice growing thick. “That is unbelievable, that a speaker would do that.”
Fischer made her remarks at a weekly breakfast hosted by the state’s congressional delegation for Nebraskans visiting the nation’s capital.
This year’s State of the Union address was heavy with partisan division. Democrats in the chamber listening to the president — including Pelosi — have sought to remove him from office, while many of the Republicans chanted “four more years” on the floor.
Fischer noted that the night started with Pelosi delivering an introduction of the president that pointedly left out traditional honorifics. For his part, Trump ignored Pelosi when she put out her hand to shake his.
“It ended with the speaker of the House tearing the president’s speech on the podium,” Fischer said. “This is not who we are. This is not who we should be.”
Fischer said she hopes both parties can find a way to cooperate on important policy matters. Her comments prompted applause from other delegation members and the crowd of visitors.
Fischer wasn’t the only person to express offense at Pelosi’s actions. They were “shameful,” according to GOP Rep. Don Bacon.
“It represents the worst of our political dialogue today,” Bacon said.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called it “very disrespectful” and said it was unbelievable that Pelosi would “act out in such a way.”
“I know that she and the president have disagreements and were obviously going through a very trying time in the last several weeks and months, but that does not excuse her behavior,” Ernst said.
Former Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, is trying to win back his old seat and sought to capitalize on the situation with a fundraising pitch that included a clip of Pelosi’s paper shredding.
While Republicans expressed outrage over the torn speech, Democrats offered their own criticisms of Trump, describing his remarks as more suitable for a campaign rally than a State of the Union address.
They cited factually challenged portions of the speech and pointed to his actions seeking foreign election interference.
As Pelosi left the House chamber Tuesday night, reporters asked why she had torn up the speech.
“It was a manifesto of mistruths,” Pelosi replied.
Critics also were quick to point out that Trump has violated norms himself during his time as a candidate and president. That includes denigrating the war service of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, to cite just one example.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb posted a photo of some torn paper on Twitter with this statement:
“My team and my kids all know as soon as I’m done with a piece of paper, I tear it up into pieces. Unless it’s a document worth keeping. The (2020 State of the Union) was not a document worth keeping. I stand with @SpeakerPelosi and won’t let the right bully us into anything else.”
My team and my kids all know as soon as I’m done with a piece of paper, I tear it up into pieces. Unless it’s a document worth keeping. The #SOTU20 was not a document worth keeping. I stand with @SpeakerPelosi and won’t let the right bully us into anything else. pic.twitter.com/HB1EE8TXBR— Jane Fleming Kleeb (@janekleeb) February 5, 2020
In an interview Wednesday, Fischer told The World-Herald that it upset her to see the “sad spectacle” of Democrats’ attitude during the speech.
“We’ve just gotten so far apart,” Fischer said. “I sat through four of President Obama’s speeches, showed respect.”
Not all Republicans sat through Obama’s speeches so respectfully, however.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., famously yelled out, “You lie!” when Obama addressed the chamber in 2009. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., was sitting next to Wilson for that speech.
Smith said Wednesday that he didn’t like Wilson shouting out like that but also noted that President George W. Bush was booed by Democrats while delivering a State of the Union address.
Smith suggested that this moment could prove to be an opportunity for both sides to start anew.
“It might be difficult, especially in a campaign cycle like we’re in, but I think the American people want to come together,” he said.
Nebraska and Iowa’s members of Congress
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!