Congressman: 'Republican Base Does Have Elements Animated by Racism'

By Susan Jones | April 14, 2014 | 5:39 AM EDT

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) (AP File Photo)

( - "Do you think your Republican colleagues are racist?" CNN's Candy Crowley asked Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on Sunday's "State of the Union."

"Not all of them, no, of course not," Israel said. "But to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism, and that's unfortunate," he added.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder complained about the way House Republicans treated him at a hearing, and he insinuated that racism was the reason.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) told a news conference on Thursday that she thinks "race has something to do with the fact" that Republicans are not bringing up an immigration bill. "I've heard them say to the Irish, if it were just you, this would be easy," Pelosi said.

Crowley asked Israel if branding Republicans as racists is part of an election-year strategy to get Democrats to the polls:

"Well, look, we don't need to get our base out, because frankly, we're ready to pass an immigration bill. And we'd rather pass an immigration bill than worry about the election," Israel said.

"We have got 190 Democrats ready to vote on a comprehensive immigration bill today. We can do it today. And we know that not every Republican is going to agree with us on that. It passed the Senate with 67 bipartisan votes. All we need is 20 Republicans, just 20 to vote for that bill and it will be law and we don't have to have this debate anymore."

Appearing with Israel, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said "it's both wrong and unfortunate" to brand Republicans as racists.

Walden said criticism of the Obama administration is based on its "executive overreaches," including the IRS scanda and Benghazi.