House resolution would condemn ‘go back’ remark
WASHINGTON – The Democrats’ attempt to officially condemn President Donald Trump’s tweets via a House resolution hit a snag Tuesday that included a long delay, the president being called racist, and a dramatic exit.
This all thanks to long-standing House rules that prohibit any personal attacks on the president and Republicans repeatedly calling out Democrats as they took the floor to speak out about the president’s rhetoric.
The House was expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s racist remarks in which he told four outspoken congresswomen to “go back” to where they came from.
The resolution specifically calls Trump’s comments about the squad — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. — “racist” and says the attacks have “legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
The vote, scheduled later this evening, will put Republicans on the record as to whether they denounce the president’s comments or will stick beside him. It will also set up a heated debate on the House floor, where Democrats are expected to pressure conservatives to back the resolution.
The House had to halt proceedings for about an hour after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the comments “racist” and a top Republican asked the comments be taken down.
“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and these comments are racist,” Pelosi said. “Every single member of this institution — Democratic and Republican — should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets. To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.”
As Pelosi called the president’s tweets racist, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., tried to interrupt and cut off her speech. Pelosi only spoke louder, looking down at her prepared remarks.
After Pelosi was done, Collins looked wide-eyed at Pelosi and asked if she wanted to “rephrase that comment.” Pelosi shot back: “I have cleared my remarks with the parliamentarian before I read them,” the nonpartisan official who assists on procedure on the floor. House Democrats started cheering and clapping.
Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, then formally asked that Pelosi’s comments be taken down, a move that sent officials and lawmakers into a large huddle on the House floor. The group for more than an hour debated what should happen. If Pelosi’s comments are taken down, they will be struck from the record and she will likely be unable to speak on the floor for the rest of the day.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and chairman of the House Rules Committee, also got in a heated back-and-forth with Republicans after he attacked the president’s comments in a speech as something that “used to be reserved for the darkest corners of the internet.”
“This is proudly using Twitter as a megaphone to attack fellow Americans,” he said. “These are American citizens being turned into some kind of scary ‘other,’ not because of their party, but because of their background, their race and their opinions.”
He added: “I implore my colleagues to think twice before you follow the president off a cliff.”
Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., took issue with McGovern’s comments, saying they clearly violated rules and were “diminishing” the institution of the House of Representatives.
Pelosi told members of her caucus Tuesday morning she wasn’t worried about House rules on calling out the president’s comments, describing the four congresswomen as their “sisters” and saying Trump’s “words were racist,” according to an aide in the room.
“The fact is, as offended as we are, and we are offended by what he said about our sisters. He says that about people every day and they feel as hurt as we do about somebody in our family having this offense against them,” Pelosi said, according to the source.
More on resolution: House resolution will condemn Trump’s ‘disgusting’ attacks on AOC, Tlaib, Omar and Pressley
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She added that she hoped Republicans would join them in condemning the comments by voting in a bipartisan fashion for the resolution.
“If they can’t support condemning the words of the President, well that’s a message in and of itself,” Pelosi said.
It doesn’t appear Republican leaders are ready to denounce the president’s tweet. In a news conference on Tuesday morning, House GOP leaders refused to condemn the president and alleged the outcry is over politics.
“Let’s not be false about what is happening here today,” said GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy. “This is all about politics and beliefs of ideologies.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said he was trying to do his job presiding over the floor in a “fair way” and kept warning both sides about their comments.
We don’t ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate. That’s what this is,” he said, noting again that he tried to remain fair. But, he said. “fairness isn’t enough. We want to just fight.
“I’ll abandon the chair,” Cleaver said, slamming the gavel on the dais and storming away as House officials watched in amazement.
The moment was replayed on loop on CSPAN like a moment from an NFL game with reporters left with their jaws dropped remarking aloud whether this had happened before. A large crowd of journalists gathered in the gallery overlooking the House floor to watch the debate.
Along with the resolution, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced a measure that would censure Trump for his racist comments. Democrats aren’t expected to take up the measure for a vote, instead hoping the resolution on Tuesday would garner bipartisan support.
Trump wrote on Sunday that it was “so interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” now telling the U.S. how to run its government. He did not mention Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley or Tlaib by name.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Then come back and show us how it is done.”
All four are American citizens. The four progressive freshmen lawmakers are some of the president’s most vocal critics in the House and have become known as the “squad” — sticking together even when they seem to go against the rest of their party on key votes and issues.
The president’s tweets appeared to help unite House Democrats after weeks of infighting that exploded into the public last month over sending emergency money to border agencies running migrant detention centers.
The feud garnered headlines after Pelosi criticized members of the “squad,” telling the New York Times that the four congresswomen “have their public whatever and their Twitter world” but do not “have any following.”
Ocasio-Cortez questioned why Pelosi would single out the new women of color in the caucus, telling the Washington Post it was “outright disrespectful.”
The back-and-forth digs ended this weekend after Trump’s attacks. Instead, Democrats united against the president and denounced his comments.
More: ‘The Squad’: These are the four congresswomen Trump told to ‘go back’ to other countries
The resolution not only condemns Trump’s comments. It also highlights immigration as a centerpiece of American history and culture, quoting presidents throughout history and comparing them to the policies of the Trump administration, which has been heavily scrutinized due in part to the worsening conditions in migrant detention centers at the southern U.S. border.
“The commitment to immigration and asylum has been not a partisan cause but a powerful national value that has infused the work of many Presidents,” the resolution reads. “American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good.”