The Colorado House has voted 62-1 to censure Rep. Douglas Bruce for kicking a newspaper photographer.
Colorado lawmakers introduced the first-ever censure measure on Wednesday, accusing Bruce of bringing disrepute to fellow lawmakers for kicking a newspaper photographer on the House floor while he was waiting to be sworn in.
The resolution by Reps. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, and Rep. Steve King, D-Grand Junction, says that Bruce deserves to be censured because his conduct "failed to uphold the honor and dignity of the House of Representatives and reflects poorly on the state." It also criticized Bruce for his failure to apologize for the incident that took place during the House prayer.
Censure is considered more severe than a reprimand because it is read aloud on the floor.
Bruce stood in front of his colleagues toward the side of the chamber as the censure was read, his lips pursed and his arms folded.
He then delivered a rambling speech, again blaming the photographer and comparing himself to Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Stewart played a freshman congressman who punches out a photographer and becomes a hero after launching a filibuster and collapsing on the floor.
Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, responded: "Representative Bruce, you're not Jimmy Stewart, this is not a 1939 movie. This is today. Your actions were wrong."
White said Bruce should admit his mistake and apologize.
Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud was the only lawmaker to vote against the censure.
Earlier, Bruce told The Gazette of Colorado Springs that the resolution was "grossly disproportionate" to his action and that he will send a letter to House members giving his side.
On Thursday, he published a response on his personal Web site
which said, "No member, nor the pastor, was aware I had tapped the photographer's knee. How can an unknown event be disorderly or disruptive?"
It was the first censure in the 131-year history of the house and Bruce questioned the response.
"The papers report that no one has ever been censured in the history of the House. The clerk is not aware of even any public reprimands. Does this single tapping justly rise to those historic levels? No. The realistic and proportional options range from no action to private warning or admonition by the speaker," he wrote.
King, co-chairman of a bipartisan committee that recommended the censure after hearing testimony from the photographer and sergeants at arms who witnessed the incident, said Bruce's behavior was unacceptable and deserved punishment.
"The beauty of this environment is that you have the ability to communicate your beliefs and to do that without fear of violence," King said. "Yes, we're all passionate about our ideas, our beliefs in specific areas. Passion is one thing, violence is a totally different thing."
King said the committee originally recommended that Bruce apologize, but dropped that demand after members concluded it would be "hollow" because Bruce believed the photographer was responsible for causing a disturbance on the House floor by taking his picture while he was trying to pray.
The incident happened Jan. 14, when Bruce kicked Rocky Mountain News photographer Javier Manzano, who said he was just doing his job at the time.
Bruce told the committee that the photographer goaded him and was responsible for creating a disruption. Bruce also denied that what he did was a kick, saying he gently pushed the photographer away with his foot.
The Colorado Springs Republican is a midterm appointee who was not sworn in until several hours after the kicking incident.
The committee voted unanimously to recommend censure.
Bruce was defiant before the panel, saying the "paparazzi" were hounding him.
"I categorically state I did not violate the order and decorum of the House," he said.
Bruce said it was ironic that he was accused of disrupting the House because he was trying to preserve the order and dignity of the House during the prayer.
Legislative legal advisers said the committee could have recommended a reprimand, censure or expulsion. They were also told they could levy a fine and order an apology.
Censure is considered more severe than a reprimand because it can be read at length on the floor and the member may be required to stand in the well of the House while it is read.
Romanoff has not said if he will require Bruce to stand before his colleagues and accept responsibility for what he did.
King said if Bruce refuses to accept whatever punishment Romanoff hands down, Bruce could face further sanctions.
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