During a bipartisan education seminar for congressional interns last week, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown told a crowd of young people that those who opposed the Democrats’ health-care reform plan were on the wrong side of history, much like segregationists who opposed the Civil Rights movement.
While most speakers who participate in the summer lecture series discuss what it’s like working in Washington or use the time to motivate the internship class, some who were present during the Tuesday meeting said Brown took the opportunity to launch what they considered to be “a partisan attack.”
“He said that people who were opposed to health-care reform were similar to the bigots and racists that were against desegregation reform,” a Republican congressional intern who attended the lecture told The Daily Caller. The intern requested not to be named. “It was ridiculous,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Brown’s office confirmed that the senator discussed how Republicans use the filibuster, but clarified that he did not intend to compare opponents of the recent health-care law passed in May to supporters of segregation.
“Senator Brown used several examples of filibusters in the Senate, including the civil rights laws of the 1960s and health-care reform this year. He did not compare segregationists with opponents of health-care reform,” said Brown Press Secretary Meghan Dubyak. “The points he made during his remarks to the interns are the same ones he made to the media throughout the health-reform debate — that opponents of civil rights and Medicare were on the wrong side of history in the 1960s, and opponents of health-care reform this year will find themselves on the wrong side of history as well.”
A spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, the group that organizes the lecture series, said that speakers rarely use the time to discuss partisan viewpoints.
“The speakers know that they are speaking to young people interning at bipartisan offices,” said Kyle Anderson of the Committee on House Administration. “The speakers really work to try and develop messages that will motivate them and leave them with a good understanding of Washington.”
Organized every summer, the lecture series provides interns of both parties and congressional chambers the opportunity to hear from members of Congress and other influential people in Washington. Speakers this season have included Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
The congressional intern who spoke to The Daily Caller said he had attended many of the summer lectures and that this the first time a speaker had been so partisan in his remarks.
Even Nader didn’t go as far as Brown did, he said.