Resolutions to Censure And Expel House Minority Whip Fail

CHARLESTON — Efforts failed on Friday, the next-to-last day of the 2019 west Virginia legislative session, to censure and expel House Minority Whip Mike Caputo.

House Resolution 20, which would have censured the Democrat from Marion County, was tabled in a 62-38 vote with 21 Republicans voting with the Democratic House members.

House Resolution 21, which would have expelled Caputo for the remainder of his term of office, was tabled in a 65-35 vote. Of the 59 Republican majority, 24 Republicans joined with the minority to table the resolution.

An attempt before the House floor session to move HR 21 to the House inactive calendar in the House Rules Committee by House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, failed by voice vote.

Delegate S. Marshall Wilson, R-Berkeley, was joined by Delegate Joe Jeffries, R-Putnam, as the only two sponsors of HR 21. HR 20 had 29 co-sponsors, almost half of the Republican House caucus.

Both resolutions sought to further punish Caputo, who admitted to kicking a door and injuring an assistant doorkeeper on March 1 after several delegates were upset over an anti-Muslim display during the West Virginia Republican Day at the Legislature.

“A week ago, we utterly abandoned not only politeness, but the simple acknowledgment of the natural rights of an individual person,” Wilson said. “Delegate Mike Caputo impeached his own honor and so impugned the honor of the people of District 50, of the caucus he continues to lead as whip, of this body, and the people and the government of West Virginia.”

During the March 1 Republican Day, a woman claiming to be a representative of ACT for America, an organization accused of anti-Muslim hatred, had set up a display which included a poster showing the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001, above a picture of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat representing Minnesota in Congress. Omar, a Somali refugee and Muslim, has been a lightning rod after she was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks regarding the U.S relationship with Israel.

The display, set up outside the entrance to the House Chamber, got the attention of several Democratic House members who confronted Brenda Arthur, the woman who set up the display. Caputo, angry over what he saw, admitted to kicking open the front door to the House Chamber when doorkeepers asked him to wait until after the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance had been completed at the start of the floor session. An assistant doorkeeper on the other side of the door was injured when the door that Caputo kicked hit him.

“I don’t know what brokenness (Caputo) suffers that would cause him to behave as he does, but we should and must condemn his behavior in terms strong enough to exact the requisite justice, to give the gentleman pause to consider the gravity of his offense, and to convince others who might be inclined to engage in such behavior that the price of the offense is too high to bear,” Wilson said.

Wilson, in HR 21, also accused Caputo of verbally assaulting the doorkeepers and Delegate Sharon Malcolm, R-Kanawha, as well as elbowing Malcolm in the shoulder and chest as he entered the chamber. Malcolm spoke in favor of both resolutions.

“It doesn’t matter really what happens to me, but as a group of human beings it should matter to all of us,” Malcolm said. “You are promoting violence against women and young people. This is terrible. There is no other way of saying it, and if you don’t vote to censure this man, you’re supporting violence.”

Earlier this week, Caputo was removed from all committees for the remainder of the legislative session, which ends at midnight Saturday. Caputo apologized March 2 for his actions.

Capitol Police are still investigating the March 1 incidents.

Both the state Republican Party and ACT have disavowed Arthur and the display.

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