US Senators Slow to Respond to Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban

Just five U.S. Senators – all Democrats – have issued formal press releases denouncing Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country

donaldtrump20Donald Trump’s call for a suspension of Muslim immigration and visitation into the United States has been the top political news story of the week, but most members of the U.S. Senate have not chosen to weigh in on the issue.

To be sure, some big name politicians and party heads have taken the lead to publicly denounce Trump’s policy proposal (e.g. House Speaker Paul Ryan) while others have stated their views only after the media has asked for their reaction.

However, a Smart Politics analysis finds more than 48 hours after Trump announced his plan to temporarily ban non-citizen Muslims from entering the country, just five members of the U.S. Senate have issued official press releases denouncing him by name and his controversial plan – all five are Democrats.

The five Senators to call out Trump by name in a formal press release are Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

On Monday, Jeff Merkley offered perhaps the harshest words for the current Republican presidential frontrunner, stating on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

Earlier today Donald Trump called for the United States to ban all Muslims from entering our Nation. This is the single worst idea I have heard from any Presidential candidate, ever. It is inconsistent with our American values. It is inconsistent with our national history.

The press release went on to state:

“Making Islam the enemy is playing straight out of ISIS’s playbook,” Merkley said, “which wants to create a war between America and Islam. And in that sense, this type of irresponsible statement endangers our national security.”

On Tuesday, Minority Leader Harry Reid also spoke on the Senate floor about this topic and issued a press release of his speech denouncing Trump:

Donald Trump is standing on the platform of hate. And I’m sorry to say that it’s a platform that the Republican Party built for him. Last week I came to the floor and said that that Republican Party is running on a platform of hate. Yesterday, Donald Trump provided the strongest evidence yet that this is true. Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering this country is hateful, despicable and vile…. Let’s not fool ourselves. This sort of racism has been prevalent in Republican politics for decades. Trump is just saying out loud what other Republicans merely suggest. Political leaders must condemn these hateful, un-American statements with their words and their actions.  Silence only empowers the bigots.

Brian Schatz’s statement on Tuesday in particular honed in on Trump’s defense of his policy by citing Franklin Roosevelt’s classification of Germans, Italians, and Japanese during World War II as “enemy aliens.” Schatz’s press release headline read:

“Trump Justifying His Racism using History of Japanese American Internment is Shameful.”

Barbara Mikulski pulled even fewer punches on Tuesday, calling Trump and his ideas “divisive,” “offensive,” “prejudiced,” “irresponsible,” “dangerous,” and “reprehensible.”

I join Americans of all faiths in denouncing Donald Trump’s divisive remarks about Muslims. His plan is deeply offensive and absolutely contrary to American values. “It also threatens America’s national security and community safety. Prejudiced proposals like this play directly into the hands of terrorists by suggesting that America is anti-Muslim. We are not. “During similar times of difficulty, our country has prevailed by banding together. Exploiting fear and tragedy to drive us apart is irresponsible and dangerous. We must come together to reject this kind of reprehensible rhetoric and policies.”

Dick Durbin’s statement was a little more subdued, though his opposition to Trump’s plan is still clear:

The fact that the Republicans would start by excluding refugees and now Mr. Trump is taking it to the extreme of excluding people of a religious faith – the Muslim religion – is an indication of a conversation in American politics which needs to stop. We need to reflect once again on the fundamental principles of this question and the fundamental values of this country as well.”

One other Democratic U.S. Senator, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, did not mention Trump by name, but on Monday did denounce the essence of his policy:

I am appalled that some are espousing the hate-filled view that a country as great as ours should have a religious litmus test. For more than 235 years, the United States has upheld the freedom of religion as one of its founding principles. We have been a confident nation unafraid to welcome newcomers. Our willingness to take in the outsider who yearns for freedom and opportunity in America is a source of tremendous strength, whether opening our doors to Jews fleeing persecution, Catholics — including my ancestors — seeking a new life, or countless other groups, including Muslims. I am stunned that some, appealing to fear and intolerance, want to end this legacy and are launching direct assaults on these American values. To reject those of a particular faith is unwise, and it is un-American. Leaders should appeal to the best in us by embracing the shared ideals of tolerance and diversity that bind Americans together. Jockeying for attention by spouting ignorant rhetoric that seeks to divide us for personal political gain is unworthy of anyone who truly deserves to lead this great nation.

Although they did not issue press releases on their U.S. Senate websites, Lindsey Graham and Bernie Sanders both called out Trump on their campaign trail.

When asked on CNN to respond to Trump’s comments, Graham stated, “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”

Bernie Sanders also attacked Trump on the Tonight Show and issued a terse press release on his campaign website:

Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin. Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.

Although the story is just entering its fourth day, there is little evidence to suggest Trump’s comments have done anything to derail his frontrunner status for the GOP nomination.

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