The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

DCCC Chair Israel: Republican base has elements ‘animated by racism’

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said in an interview broadcast Sunday that parts of Republican Party base are moved by racism.

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," Israel was asked by host Candy Crowley whether he thought his Republican colleagues were racist. She mentioned comments from last week by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who said Republicans have engaged in "ugly and divisive" attacks against President Obama and him; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said that Republican opposition to comprehensive immigration reform was motivated in part by race.

"Not all of them, no, of course not," replied Israel. "But to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism. And that's unfortunate."

Israel appeared with his GOP counterpart, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who rejected the notion that race has fueled opposition to Obama's agenda.

"It's both wrong and unfortunate," he said. "You know, there have been a lot of executive overreaches by this administration. We see the latest with Lois Lerner and the whole IRS scandal."

Israel and Walden debated the 2014 midterm landscape. Democratic hopes' for wining the House majority have been all but erased. Now, the big question is which party will pick up seats in the fall.

Acknowledging the drop-off in Democratic turnout that has been typical in recent off-year elections, Israel said his party is waging a robust effort to get voters to participate.

"We're using every tool in our toolbox, accelerating our investments in field, putting people on the ground. We've got 33 districts covered with staff in order to deal with that drop off," he said.

Walden said Republicans are "focused on jobs and the economy, trying to grow both."

Asked whether embattled Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) should resign amid the release of video of him kissing a staffer, Walden declined to take a position.

"It's bad. It's wrong. He needs to answer and be held accountable," said Walden.

Walden also expressed confidence Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) would be reelected as House speaker, even as some House conservatives have plotted possibly forcing Boehner aside next year.