Steele Declines To Sign DNC ‘Joint Civility Statement’

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The Democratic National Committee says that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has declined to sign on to a joint statement written by DNC Chairman Tim Kaine that condemns threats made to members of Congress from both parties. The draft text of the statement says that while Steele and Kaine disagree on the health care bill, they would “together call on elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry” and ask “all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior.”

DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse told reporters that Kaine sent the letter to Steele today and then phoned him asking the chairman to release a joint bipartisan statement “condemning the threats and acts of vandalism over the past week, calling for an end to such tactics and urging a more civil tone in our politics.” “This afternoon, Chairman Steele, through staff, declined Chairman Kaine’s offer,” Woodhouse said.

RNC spokesman Doug Heye told TPMDC that Steele did reject the request. He said Steele was among the first to condemn threats in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Kaine last weekend.“Gov. Kaine had an opportunity to condemn such activities when he was sitting next to Michael Steele on the set on Meet the Press. He chose not to, and instead decided to use it as an opportunity to raise money,” Heye told me in an email. Steele said that neither party should be associated with the racist incidents that happened at the Capitol Saturday during a health care protest.

Heye added:

Obviously, a large majority of Americans – a broad coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Independent – are upset that President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid pushed through health care legislation that increases premiums and raises taxes and did so through strong-arm tactics, closed door meetings and sweetheart deals. Voters have a right to be angry. Unfortunately, some have chosen to engage in language and actions that go too far.

The DNC’s letter, dated today, details the many reports of threatening letters, calls and emails sent to members of Congress. Kaine writes:

In the interest of protecting and instilling confidence in our political system, I propose that we issue a joint statement calling for an end to such tactics. A joint statement by the elected Chairs of the major national parties would send a bipartisan signal that this is not how we should conduct our politics in America.

In the interest of acting promptly, I have enclosed a draft for you to consider. I look forward to working with you to finalize the statement and issue it from both of our Committees.

Here is the proposed draft statement included in the letter.

As leaders of our respective national parties, we want to speak to all Americans about the importance of conducting our political debates in a manner and tone that respects our political system and demonstrates to the world the strength of our democracy.

We have a system of government that allows the great issues of our day to be resolved peacefully and civilly and that serves as a beacon of hope to those around the world who yearn for political freedom, political stability, and governing without the threat of violence.

We have a system that allows people to express approval of their government or change the party in power peaceably through the ballot box.

Our Constitution affords Americans the right to assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Clearly, we have different positions on the merits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, we together call on elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry. We also call on all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior.

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