- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

Yet another member of Congress has been tripped up by an open microphone, suggesting on the House floor where a colleague who disagreed with him should “stick” his viewpoint.

After responding to a fellow Missouri lawmaker’s comments on a defense bill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, turned to an aide and muttered the phrase while his microphone was still on.

The exchange was part of the floor debate on the annual defense bill, a debate that became more heated than usual this year after Senate Democrats attached an expanded hate-crimes provision - including crimes based on sexual orientation - to the final bill that lawmakers are being asked to vote on.

In the somber confines of the House chamber, Rep. Todd Akin, Missouri Republican, criticized Democrats for the move.

“There is an elephant in the room,” Mr. Akin said, arguing that Democrats were trying to “blackmail” Republicans by attaching the thorny social issue to the popular and usually bipartisan bill to set Pentagon priorities.

“This is the kind of shenanigans that makes the American public irate,” Mr. Akin said.

Mr. Skelton asked an aide for the vote tally in the Senate, then repeated the 87-7 Senate vote aloud to Mr. Akin. Then Mr. Skelton recognized a fellow Democrat to speak and turned to sit down, though not before saying audibly to the aide the offending phrase.

“I was just shocked,” said Michele Del Favero, who was watching the debate on C-SPAN. She called Mr. Skelton’s office to ask why he’d appeared to be so rude, but said that when the person who answered the phone found out she was from Kansas, not Missouri, he was dismissive.

“He said, ‘OK. I’ll pass it on, thank you,’ ” she said.

Mr. Skelton’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a message left seeking a comment, but Mr. Akin’s office laughed it off.

“Congressman Akin is aware of the statement and he is wondering if such a suggestion would be an example of a hate crime,” said Steve Taylor, a spokesman for the Republican lawmaker.

The remark is not likely to be part of the official Congressional Record, because it was not an official part of the floor debate and Mr. Skelton had already recognized another speaker to take the floor.

But Democrats did set a precedent for punishing such remarks last month when they passed a resolution rebuking Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, for shouting “You lie!” at President Obama during his health care address to Congress.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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