WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., ridiculed congressional lawmakers at a Tuesday transportation hearing, saying that many of his colleagues are afraid of “the Tea Party,” and others are opposed to any action under President Barack Obama “because he’s the wrong color.”

The West Virginia Democrat, who will retire at the end of 2014, joined with other Democratic lawmakers in accusations of racist undertones guiding their Republican counterparts. Rockefeller’s comments at the Senate Finance Committee hearing on transportation funding started because he said he was baffled by the “lack of will to keep ourselves from dropping into rivers and rolling over bridges that are no longer there.”

He said that lawmakers’ desire for re-election often trumps their ability to vote honestly – before adding that race is playing a role for some in Congress.

“It’s an American characteristic that you don’t do anything which displeases the voters, because you always have to get re-elected here,” he added. “I understand part of it… for some, it’s just we don’t want anything good to happen under this president, because he’s the wrong color.

“For some it’s the Tea Party. For some it’s just a fear of their own reelection prospects,” Rockefeller said, taking shots at those resisting an increased gas tax as a way to finance additional transportation spending.

He also blamed himself for not speaking out on issues he sees as snarled by lawmakers with very narrow self-interest.

“Why haven’t I been more up front about this in previous sessions? We’ve all seen this coming,” he said, referencing the nation’s collapsing infrastructure.

And Rockefeller is not the only Democrat saying that Obama has been treated unfairly while in office, among other race-based criticisms of the Republican Party.

Born-again Democratic candidate for Florida governor –former Republican Charlie Crist – recently told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos that the GOP is seen as “anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment,” and that the party’s “intolerable” practices have made him feel “liberated” as a Democrat.

Crist also commented that Republicans have an “unfriendly” attitude toward “the African-American president” that he views as an insult to his conscience.

Rep. Barbara Lee took shots at Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for his comments about “generations” of “inner-city men” not working, accusing the Republican star of a “thinly veiled racial attack.”

Attorney General Eric Holder also criticized congressional lawmakers’ for opposition to himself and Obama, saying that many held an “unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly, and divisive adversity” not held against previous people in their offices.

But House Speaker John Boehner dismissed the use of the “race card” against Republican lawmakers.

“There’s no issue of race here,” Boehner told CBS News. “We’ve been going through all these hearings, having to hold people in contempt because they’ve made it impossible to get to the documents. They’ve not been forthcoming. They owe the American people the truth.”


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