WASHINGTON D.C. – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shut the door Thursday to a resolution honoring Michael Jackson because debate on the symbolic measure could raise "contrary views" about the pop star's life.
Lawmakers are free to use House speeches "to express their sympathy or their praise any time that they wish," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "I don't think it's necessary for us to have a resolution."
A resolution sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, cites some of the singer's charitable acts and proclaims him an American legend, musical icon and world humanitarian.
Even before Pelosi's comments, some Democrats said privately they did not support the resolution and a divisive debate would hurt House efforts to muster the votes for priorities such as health care and climate change.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who posted a video on YouTube calling Michael Jackson a "pervert" and a "pedophile," has pledged to do all he could to block the resolution.
Michael Jackson was acquitted in 2005 of charges that he molested a 13-year-old boy. Those allegations, and his admission that children slept in his bed at his home but nothing sexual occurred, have led some members of Congress to put distance between themselves and any formal honor for the entertainer.
"A resolution, I think, would open up to contrary views to — that are not necessary at this time to be expressed in association with a resolution whose purpose is quite different," Pelosi said at a Capitol Hill news conference where she discussed various legislative matters.
Unbowed, Jackson Lee said she will seek support from colleagues who thanked her when she introduced the measure June 26, one day after Michael Jackson died. She said honorary resolutions don't often "pass the next day."
"On this floor we elevate people and doing that we have to work to tell your story," she said after a House vote. But she would need support from Democratic leadership for the resolution to advance to the full House from the committee where it is now.
When members of the Congressional Black Caucus held a moment of silence in the House after Jackson died June 25, some lawmakers walked out of the chamber.
Jackson Lee has pledged that the resolution, now before the House Foreign Affairs Committee where she is a member, would come to the full House for debate. Such honorary measures normally move quickly from committee to the full House and pass on a voice vote.
But Jackson Lee's resolution was in trouble early. It drew only one co-sponsor, Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., and was not endorsed by other black caucus members.
From the stage at Jackson's memorial Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Jackson Lee hoisted a framed copy of the resolution.
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by Suzanne Gamboa, Associated Press Writers, July 9, 2009