Congress Mysteriously Stalls on a Resolution to Honor the Victims of Portland’s MAX Stabbings

"It’s outrageous that the Republican leadership in the House won’t take two minutes to honor these heroes,” says Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

Hollywood Transit Center vigil on May 27, 2017. (Emily Joan Greene)

For more than a month, Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has declined to consider a congressional resolution to honor the victims of a double slaying on a Portland MAX train.

One week after the May 26 MAX killings—allegedly committed by a Portland white supremacist who marched with right-wing protesters—Oregon's Democratic U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, drafted the resolution. It honors "acts of heroism and sacrifice for the safety and sake of others in the face of acts of domestic terrorism."

The resolution passed the Senate on June 8 by unanimous consent. But the House leadership has declined to bring it to the floor for a vote, or answer questions from Oregon's delegation asking why.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who sponsored the resolution in the House, is furious.

"It's outrageous that the Republican leadership in the House won't take two minutes to honor these heroes," Blumenauer tells WW.

The resolution is a purely symbolic gesture, as routine as a politician offering "thoughts and prayers" to the victims of any tragedy. That makes it all the more puzzling why Congress wouldn't rubber-stamp it—especially when it has been quick to memorialize the victims of other hate crimes and terrorist attacks, both in and outside the U.S.

In June alone, the House passed resolutions honoring the police response to an attack on a GOP congressional baseball practice, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., and condemning the Islamic extremist attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Two of those resolutions were passed the same day they were introduced, and the third—condemning the Manchester attack—was passed within two weeks.

Congressional gridlock on other, more substantive issues like health care is no explanation, either. Each week, the House gets an opportunity to vote on the resolution while approving its suspension calendar—a time when the House frequently approves so-called easy votes, like naming new post offices and passing resolutions.

But the Portland MAX stabbings were immediately polarizing—and a touchy subject for nationalist groups that have gained traction with the election of President Donald Trump. It's unclear whether calling the stabbings "terrorism" is politically unpalatable for some Republicans.

The accused killer, Jeremy Christian, is a Portland white supremacist who had latched onto an extremist movement known as the "alt-right"—and could be heard on public transit spouting the movement's complaints about antifascist protesters and the liberal suppression of free speech.

In the moments before he stabbed three men May 26, Christian harassed two black teenage girls, one of them wearing a hijab. The men intervened to stop Christian's hateful rant; Christian pulled out a knife and stabbed them in the necks. Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were killed in the attack; and Micah David-Cole Fletcher survived.

Related: Friends and family remember the heroes who stood up to hate on the MAX.

Wyden, who co-sponsored the resolution, says a memorial to those three men should be as easy to approve as any other. "I am calling on the House leadership to take the same step recognizing these heroes for standing up courageously to terrorism," he tells WW in a statement.

Merkley agrees. "It is beyond unacceptable for House leadership to fail to call a vote on the resolution honoring the heroes who gave their lives on the Portland MAX train," he tells WW.

A bipartisan delegation of U.S. representatives from Oregon—including Republican Rep. Greg Walden—sent a letter to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on July 7 demanding that he allow a vote on the resolution. McCarthy has not responded to the delegation, nor has he showed any signs of bringing the resolution to a vote.

McCarthy's office did not return WW's requests for comment on why the resolution hadn't been put to a vote yet, or whether it ever would be. He also had not responded to the letter from the Oregon delegation by press time.

Blumenauer says he won't quit pushing for a vote. "This attack was unlike anything we have seen," he says. "It shouldn't be this hard, and we're going to keep pressing."

HOW TO ACT: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office can be reached at (202) 225-2915.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.