The U.S. House of representatives passed a resolution Thursday condemning socialism and socialist governments, including the government of Kim Jong Un of North Korea, pictured here with President Donald Trump on June 30, 2019 during Trump's visit to the Korean demilitarized zone. Handout photo by Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House held a strongly bipartisan vote Thursday, condemning socialism and former socialist leaders, though Democrats rebuked majority Republicans for spending time on a “political stunt” and refusing to allow debate on an amendment that would have clarified Social Security and Medicare are not socialist programs.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer said he lamented “the failure today to consider a resolution which would reflect the overwhelming consensus in this House — that capitalism, not socialism, has proven to be the very best economic system.”
“Such a resolution would have brought us together. It would give confidence to our fellow citizens that we are united in our support of our democratic capitalist system,” Hoyer added. “The resolution before us today, however, does not do that. Instead, it is an intellectually bankrupt screed of political demagoguery.”
The resolution from Florida Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, approved on a 328-86 vote with 14 members voting present, notes that “socialist ideology necessitates a concentration of power that has time and time again collapsed into communist regimes, totalitarian rule, and brutal dictatorships.”
“Congress denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America,” it reads
The resolution mentions Cambodia, China, Cuba, North Korea and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as examples of socialist governments, though they may more accurately be defined as communist.
It also lists several dictators, including Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong Un and Mao Zedong.
The resolution doesn’t list Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who headed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or the millions of Jewish people and others murdered during the Holocaust and World War II.
The current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also are not listed as examples of the perils of socialism or dictators.
Medicare, Social Security
North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry rejected Democrats’ criticism of the resolution during floor debate, saying “there’s nothing in this resolution about entitlement programs or banning social services or anything of the like.”
Republican plans to reduce government spending in their upcoming budget resolution, have elicited questions from Democrats about whether the GOP plans to make changes to Medicare and Social Security, which mostly run on autopilot outside of the annual appropriations process.
“It outlines the pain and hardship experienced by millions around the world who have suffered under a socialist regime,” McHenry said, adding the resolution “is not just messaging or a waste of time.”
“It speaks to people who have known all too well the atrocities of socialism and it gives voice to their pain,” he said.
But McHenry said later during floor debate that because it was so early in the session, the resolution didn’t go through his committee or the markup process.
“What I would have preferred in this resolution was a fulsome defense of capitalism and the juxtaposition between that optimistic sense of freedom that is born out of our property rights, our speech rights, our individual rights in this country that has deeply connected us with an economic sense of freedom — and the juxtaposition of that to the misery of socialism,” he said.
McHenry also noted that Putin wasn’t listed in the resolution because “he doesn’t currently call himself a socialist.”
The Washington Post reported last year that Putin in 2016 said, “I really liked and still like communist and socialist ideas,” and “claimed to have kept his old party card.”
Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan argued the resolution was “little about intelligent discourse and everything to do about laying the groundwork to cut Social Security and Medicare.”
“For 35 years now I’ve owned a small business, giving me significantly more experience as a capitalist than the vast majority of members on the other side of the aisle,” Pocan said. “So as a capitalist, let me tell you, this resolution is plain ridiculous.”
Wisconsin’s socialist caucus, revived this year by two freshmen state lawmakers, called the resolution passed by the U.S. House condemning socialism an attack that comes in reaction to the growing embrace of socialist policies across the country.
“It’s completely ridiculous that our elected representatives at the national level, rather than spending time on fixing the economic and social crisis that we’re facing, are spending time with essentially name calling,” Rep. Ryan Clancy (D-Milwaukee) said.
Clancy said the resolution conflates totalitarian regimes with socialism, adding that the authors are either “maliciously and intentionally misconstruing what socialism is or they have no idea what this scary S-word is.”
The state lawmakers said socialism has a long, proud history throughout the U.S., and many programs, including public school free breakfast programs and Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation law, have socialist roots.
Wisconsin, in particular, has a notable history of socialist representation. Milwaukee is the only U.S. city to ever elect a socialist mayor and was known for being largely run by “sewer socialists” for many decades.
Clancy said socialist policies like paid parental leave are becoming increasingly popular throughout the country, and the House resolution represents a backlash against those efforts.
“People are more and more aware that one of the goals of government has to be meeting people’s basic needs when they need it the most,” Clancy said. “Every movement has a backlash to it. I guess this is it.”
“They needed to find a way to attack it, right? And this policy is exactly that, a blatant attack in an attempt to curb attention from solutions,” Rep. Darrin Madison Jr. (D-Milwaukee) said. He said he thinks this strategy will backfire, especially as young people increasingly embrace these policies.
They said they were glad Wisconsin’s Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan and Gwen Moore voted against the resolution.
— Baylor Spears
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