Missouri congressman Jason Smith made headlines on January 17 after he had an outburst on the House floor. Smith, a Republican, yelled at a group of Democratic congress members that they should “go back to Puerto Rico.” But the Missouri congressman’s spokesman said afterwards that the remark wasn’t racially motivated. Here’s what you need to know about Jason Smith:
1. Smith’s Spokesman Said Smith Was Taking a Shot at the Congress Members Who Traveled to Puerto Rico Last Weekend
Jason Smith acknowledged that he did, in fact, yell at a group of Democratic lawmakers to “go back to Puerto Rico” during a heated debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon. But Smith said that he wasn’t talking about minority members of Congress. Instead, he said, he was referring to the recent trip to Puerto Rico that 30 Democratic lawmakers took just last week. President Trump has also criticized the Democrats’ trip, which he described as a “celebration.” “I’ve been here all weekend. A lot of Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating something,” the president said on Monday.
Some Democrats said they found Smith yelling at them to “go back to Puerto Rico” offensive. Tony Cardenas, a congressman from California, said it sounded to him like Smith was yelling at Democrats to “go back to where you came rom,” adding that he was shocked to hear that kind of language on Capitol Hill. “When people blurt things out like that, it certainly sounds like the old saying, ‘go back to where you came from,’ ” Cárdenas told The Hill on Thursday. “Since I was a little boy I’ve heard that blurted at me many times, but it’s sad that anything even remotely close to that would be said to me on the floor of the House,” he added.
2. Smith Won His Congressional Seat in a Special Election in 2013 & Trounced His Democratic Opponent in the Most Recent Election
Jason Smith represents Missouri’s 8th congressional district. The district voted for President Trump by a margin of 54.2 points in 2016; Trump won the state of Missouri by 18.5 points. In the most recent election, Smith handily beat out his Democratic challenger, Kathy Ellis. Smith won 73.4 percent of the vote, while Ellis garnered just 25 percent of the vote.
Before being elected to the US Congress, Smith spent close to a decade in the Missouri General Assembly. He was elected to the body in a special election in 2005. He then was elected to the US House of Representatives during a special election in June of 2013.
3. Smith Says His Biggest Concerns Are Shrinking the Size of Government & Fighting for the Rights of Rural Americans
Smith describes himself as a seventh generation Missourian and a “champion for the rights and values of rural Missourians.” He still owns the family farm which was started by his great grandfather, and says one of his major concerns is finding a way to preserve the lifestyle of rural Americans. His official biography says, “In Washington Jason has made a name for himself as a strong defender of rural Missouri and all of rural America. Jason is committed to fighting intrusive government regulations, increasing markets for farmers and ranchers, and protecting his constituents’ rural way of life. ”
Smith is a lifelong member of the NRA and has a 100 percent approval rating from the American Conservative Union and from the Chamber of Commerce, according to his official biography. He says that he is pro-life.
4. Smith Graduated from College at the Age of 20 With a Double Degree
Smith, 38, describes his origins as humble. “My dad had an auto repair shop here in Salem, and my mother worked at Briggs & Stratton,” he told a local newspaper back in 2014. “I mean, that’s not exactly the road map to go to Congress.” But Smith said that he had always had lofty goals. He graduated from college at the age of 20, earning two degrees and then heading to law school in Oklahoma. He then returned to his native Salem, Missouri to practice law, before running for the Missouri General Assembly.
When he was elected to the US Congress, he became one of the only lawmakers there who was still paying back his student loans — something which, he said, shaped his view of the nation’s debt crisis.
5. Smith Does Daily Early Morning Crossfit Workouts With Democratic & Republican Lawmakers
Soon after arriving at the US Congress, Smith started taking part in 6AM crossfit workouts led by Oklahoma congressman Markwayne Mullin. Smith said he approached Mullin, a former cage fighter, and told him that he wanted to get fit. “I think he made me his special project,” Smith told his hometown newspaper.
In 2017, Roll Call wrote about Mullins’ daily workouts, reporting that the members of the daily crossfit crew included Republicans like Martha McSally, Kristi Noem, Jason Smith, Buddy Carter, Bruce Westerman, and Democrats like Kyrsten Sinema, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Josh Gottheimer, Seth Moulton and Tom Suozzi.