It seems almost beside the point to fact-check the altercation between Brad Sherman and Howard Berman yesterday. They could have been arguing about their favorite Valley hotdog stand -- the point is that Berman got in Sherman's face and Sherman lost his cool, grabbing the elder statesman around the shoulder and challenging him to a fight.
But the fact of the matter is that the rival Congressmen were arguing about the Dream Act, the measure to give legal status to undocumented students. And today, both sides are claiming their guy had the better of the argument. So if it's a fact-check they want, it's a fact-check they'll get.
Here's the dialogue that led up to the physical confrontation:
Sherman: "When the Dream Act was first introduced in Congress, it didn't have his (Berman's) name on it..."
Berman: "Here's the story. A lie unanswered is wrong. When I introduced the bill, and I was the first person to introduce the bill. We called it the Student Adjustment Act. He wants you to think that I'm making this up. He's either delusional or a liar..."
That led to this unbecoming moment:
Sherman's point is true in only the most trivial sense. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., introduced a Dream Act-style bill in April 2001. (The "Dream Act" name would come later.) Berman's name was not on it. However, in May 2001, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, introduced a similar bill, the Student Adjustment Act. Berman's name was on that one. In fact, he was the Democratic co-sponsor. Cannon took the lead because that made it more likely to pass in a Republican Congress. Sherman was not a co-sponsor of either bill.
So you can see why Sherman's point -- while trivially accurate -- would have gotten Berman angry. Berman really was involved on this issue from the start, when Sherman was nowhere to be found.
Rep. Gutierrez, who is the leading authority on this issue in Congress, released a statement today supporting Berman:
It is not a matter of debate that Rep. Howard Berman is the author of the DREAM Act. I am a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act and worked elbow to elbow with Howard Berman to get it passed in the House in 2010, but Howard Berman has been our leader on the DREAM Act and so many other key pieces of immigration policy.
America's Voice, an immigrant activist organization, convened a press call today to express additional support for Berman.
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"He has been a champion on every major issue that's of import to immigrants," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the organization. "Brad Sherman has a perfectly respectable record on immigration, but no one comes close to Berman."
Sherman's consultant, Parke Skelton, countered that Berman has been accusing Sherman of being ineffectual because Sherman co-sponsors bills but rarely appears as the author. Yet in this case, Berman is claiming credit for a bill he co-sponsored. However, Skelton also conceded that
"no one is disputing that (Berman) was a key player on the Dream Act."
Now, whether Berman should have responded by calling Sherman "delusional" is a separate question. But strictly on the substance of the matter, Berman wins the point.