WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan was one of nine Congressional Republicans to vote against naming a North Carolina post office after the late-poet and civil rights icon Maya Angelou.
Duncan, R-Laurens, said the reason was simple: Angelou supported the Communist government in Cuba.
“While Dr. Angelou made terrific contributions to both literature and civil rights, her vocal support of the communist regime in Cuba gave me pause when deciding whether to name a taxpayer funded building after her,” he said in a statement to The Post and Courier on Tuesday evening. “As Chair of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere with jurisdiction over Cuba, I have heard the personal testimonies of families who have suffered great human rights abuses under the oppressive Castro regime. When thinking of all the Cuban-American families who have suffered and continue to suffer under the communist government of Cuba, I felt compelled to oppose the legislation.”
U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., released a statement earlier in the day expressing a similar sentiment, which suggests there might have been some coordination among members in rebuffing the legislation.
When Congress votes to name a post office, it’s typically a noncontroversial affair, so it’s noteworthy whenever a lawmaker records opposition. But colleagues of Duncan and the eight other dissenters were particularly surprised in this case, given Angelou’s legacy. The “no” votes were also cast as pressure mounted on all Republicans to condemn presidential frontrunner Donald Trump for not condemning white supremacist David Duke.
Other strong critics of the Obama administration’s efforts to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations did not feel compelled to vote against the legislation on Tuesday afternoon.
Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.