DENVER — A special legislative session bill introduced on Sunday that was intended to increase Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards benefits for school children over the summer, turned into a bizarre, anti-Semitic political speech by one Democrat representative and a showdown between House leadership and one of their own.
After Democrats decided late Sunday night to limit debate on Senate Bill 23B-002 to just one hour total, they allowed Rep. Elisabeth Epps, D-Denver to spend 45 minutes of that time yelling at her colleagues and criticizing Israel for “ethnic cleansing” in a political speech that was more about supporting Palestinians in Gaza, and less about Colorado issues.
“It is deeply offensive that when we can make a decision that much of the world has made to not further fund and underwrite the ethnic cleansing that is happening on our watch,” Epps said to start her speech, “… that we are not doing so. That further exacerbates the demonstrable objective harm being done to the children in the occupied territories.”
Epps’ amendment would have prevented the use of EBT for purchases of “food products that originate in occupied territories,” which Epps said included the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Epps eventually revealed that she was referring to “dates and hummus.”
Boycotts of Medjoul dates, which can only be grown in the West Bank and are the traditional dates used by Muslims to break their Ramadan fasts, and Sabra hummus, which is a product of the Strauss Group — an Israel-based food company have been ongoing across the country by pro-Hamas supporters for years.
Epps considers herself an expert on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. She told her colleagues that while they all had their expertise in areas such as business, government, and health care that they were bound to bring to the House floor, she now had an obligation to share her expertise with her colleagues.
“I come from a woman who when I was 8 years old was taking me to D.C. to protest along her Jewish best friend as we marched for Palestinian liberation,” she said. “If your mother has been dragging you to Palestinian liberation marches … you don’t get to be silent.”
She also compared herself to the late Shirley Chisholm, who was the first black woman to be elected to Congress in 1968, and who made a name for herself by making her colleagues uncomfortable.
Going after fellow Democrats
Things began to go astray 17 minutes after Epps took to the well when she went after her own caucus.
“This isn’t what I wanted to run,” she said. “But naively, I trusted my colleagues, who I gave advanced notice to, would not line up against me to run out the clock.” When Boesenecker attempted to shut her down, she grew even more agitated. “And I’m going to say what I was saying. I am sticking to the amendment. You are not going to do this right now. You are complicit.”
Boesenecker called for a recess to confer with Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie and Majority Leader Monica Duran, during which time Epps can be seen in the well, very disturbed, yelling at others and at the ceiling.
Boesnecker can eventually be seen explaining their decision to her, which only agitated her more, and she can be seen on the tape fighting with Boesnecker.
However, Epps was allowed to continue, and she immediately went on the defensive again.
“I’m going to be real careful to not speak to motives,” she said. “Although I didn’t. I don’t know what the motive would be to want to feed one set of children while exploiting others. … It’s not about the motive, but the amendment Mr. Chair. While this amendment points to the occupied territories while ethnic cleansing is underway, we all want kids to eat. While we protect our own children from food insecurities, we can’t do that while underwriting the active annihilation and starvation of other folks’ children.”
Epps said she expected the amendment the fail 64-1, but she wanted least there to be a record that she tried to be on the right side of history. Then, with just 15 minutes left to debate the bill, Boesnecker reminded her of the time left, and she took another swipe at him, calling Boesnecker and her legislative colleagues “woefully, culturally incompetent.”
After the debate time finally expired, and no one else was allowed to speak to the bill, Rep. Lorena Garcia, a Democrat representing Adams and Jefferson counties, asked for a title ruling — a procedural challenge that could have been called for at any time prior to Epps taking all the time off the debate clock. Epps’ 45-minute rant proved to be wasted, as Boesnecker determined the amendment title did not fit the bill and there was no vote on the amendment.
The bill itself passed on a voice vote near the midnight hour late Sunday night. But Epps was back at it again on Monday, making her speech even more political as she ended her comments simply with, “free Palestine.”
Our unofficial motto at Complete Colorado is “Always free, never fake, ” but annoyingly enough, our reporters, columnists and staff all want to be paid in actual US dollars rather than our preferred currency of pats on the back and a muttered kind word. Fact is that there’s an entire staff working every day to bring you the most timely and relevant political news (updated twice daily) from around the state on Complete’s main page aggregator, as well as top-notch original reporting and commentary on Page Two.
CLICK HERE TO LADLE A LITTLE GRAVY ON THE CREW AT COMPLETE COLORADO. You’ll be giving to the Independence Institute, the not-for-profit publisher of Complete Colorado, which makes your donation tax deductible. But rest assured that your giving will go specifically to the Complete Colorado news operation. Thanks for being a Complete Colorado reader, keep coming back.