Nine House Republicans voted against naming a North Carolina post office after poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou Tuesday afternoon, the latest example of the polarization surrounding even the most mundane proceedings on Capitol Hill, particularly around issues of race.
The vote was 371-9-1, with one member voting present. The vote to designate a Winston-Salem post office the “Maya Angelou Memorial Post Office” came after a 381-0 vote to rename a Camp Pendleton, California, post office the “Camp Pendleton Medal of Honor Post Office.”
Republican Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Ken Buck of Colorado, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Glen Grothman of Wisconsin, Andy Harris of Maryland, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Michael Burgess of Texas, Steven Palazzo of Mississippi and Alex Mooney of West Virginia voted against the bill.
Burgess, in a statement, said “Congress has more important things to be doing rather than spending time naming post offices.”
“Yesterday, I was asked to vote to name a post office for a pro-Castro and pro-communist individual and I could not support that,” he continued.
A spokesperson for Harris said the Maryland Republican voted against renaming the post office because Angelou was a "communist sympathizer."
"His parents escaped communism and he feels that he cannot vote to name a post office in the United States in honor of someone who supported the communist Castro revolution in Cuba," the spokesperson said in a statement. "Who's next to get a post office? Jane Fonda?"
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, voted present.
In a statement, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., criticized the lawmakers for opposing the post office renaming, which he called “one of the most benign and bipartisan duties we perform in the House."
"Naming post offices is one of the most benign and bipartisan duties we perform in the House of Representatives, and there is rarely any opposition," he wrote in a statement. "That’s why I was shocked today as nine Republicans voted against naming a post office after Maya Angelou, indisputably one of our country’s greatest poets, authors and civil rights activists."
Requests for comment from the members who voted against the measure were not immediately returned.
Angelou, who died in 2014, taught a Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2011.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified the home state of U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess. It is Texas, not Kentucky.