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Reps. Ted Lieu and Karen Handel argue over audio of immigrant children played on House floor

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/22/2018 Eliza Collins
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Video by NBC News

WASHINGTON — Two lawmakers got into a dispute on the House floor Friday when a Democratic lawmaker defied demands to stop playing audio of crying immigrant children separated from their parents during a speech in the House chamber.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., started his remarks by saying “if the Statue of Liberty could cry, she would be crying today. As I stand here there are 2,300 babies and kids who are ripped away from their parents by our government and are in detention facilities across America."

Lieu asked people watching to imagine how the kids who have been separated from their families must feel before suddenly playing audio of children crying and calling out to parents. The heart-wrenching audio played for nearly 40 seconds before Rep. Karen Handel, R-Ga., who was presiding over the floor, called on Lieu to suspend his speaking. Handel said Lieu was “in breach of quorum.”

Lieu pushed back saying that there was no rule prohibiting him from playing sounds. Handel said there was a rule that prohibited the use of electronic devices to play audio.

“Why are we hiding this from the American people?” he asked as audio continued to play.

“The gentleman will suspend,” Handel repeated as she banged her gavel. Lieu proceed: “I think the American people need to hear this.”

Lieu finally suspended almost five minutes later after someone came and talked to him on the House floor.

Lieu isn't the only Democrat to play audio of the immigrant children. 

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez used a speech earlier this week to play part of the recording.

“They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but the audio released yesterday by ProPublica is worth a million tears,” Menendez said. “How do you submit the cries of innocent children to the Congressional Record? I don’t know how you do that, but you can hear it.”

Contributing: Herb Jackson


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