House Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) during a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday pushed to censure President Trump for his tweets telling four progressive congresswomen to “go back” to their countries, going a step further than the resolution condemning the president that is up for a vote later in the day.

Cohen introduced a resolution late Monday night to censure Trump, arguing the formal rebuke should be stronger than the resolution from Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who was born in Poland, that “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments.”

During the Democratic caucus meeting, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke in defense of the four progressive freshmen. She also argued that the Malinowski resolution had a chance of drawing GOP support.

“These are our sisters. 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 an aide in the room.

“This is, I hope, one where we will get Republican support,” Pelosi said of Malinowski’s resolution. “If they can’t support condemning the words of the president, well, that’s a message in and of itself.”

But Cohen dismissed that argument.

“The truth is I’m not worried about getting Republicans. I think we ought to do what’s right, and what is moral and ethically right. What he has done is reprehensible,” Cohen said after the House Democratic Caucus meeting.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) also said that condemning, rather than censuring, Trump had the most support.

“The decision has been made by leadership with the full support of the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus, that this is the right approach to take at this moment. There will be accountability measures that we’ll have to consider as we move forward. But at the moment that we’re in right now, we want the strongest vote possible, and we’re hopeful that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would put country ahead of party, would put decency ahead of Donald Trump. Let’s see what happens on the floor later on this evening,” Jeffries said.

Cohen’s resolution had nine co-sponsors upon its introduction on Monday, but he said that several more lawmakers had approached him about co-sponsoring it on Tuesday morning. The co-sponsors include the four freshman progressive lawmakers targeted by Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.). Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia, is the only one of the four who was born in another country.

Malinowski on Tuesday defended his resolution, telling reporters that it is “the way to go.”

“Let’s focus on these comments that the vast majority of Americans recognize to be divisive and racist,” Malinowski said. “Right now what we can unite around is that what the president said is wrong, un-American and dangerous.”

While some Democrats, like Cohen, are pushing for censure, Malinowski’s resolution is still expected to get unanimous support from Democrats on the floor later Tuesday.

Some rank-and-file GOP lawmakers have pushed back against Trump’s tweets, but only two House Republicans — Reps. Will Hurd (Texas) and Mike Turner (Ohio) — explicitly called them racist. Most Republicans haven’t gone as far, making it less likely that they’d be willing to vote for Malinowski’s resolution, which labels Trump’s comments racist.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said at a Tuesday press conference that he will be urging Republicans to vote against the resolution of condemnation. When asked if Trump’s comments were racist, McCarthy replied, “No.”

“It’s all politics,” McCarthy said.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) also spoke up during the closed-door Democratic caucus meeting to caution lawmakers to be careful with their words during floor debate because Republicans will likely try to have them taken down from the record because of a rule stating that members shouldn’t engage in personal attacks on the president. McGovern suggested that lawmakers check with the House parliamentarian about what language is acceptable during floor debate.

“I’m not,” Pelosi said, drawing laughter.

Updated at 11:26 a.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ayanna Pressley Donald Trump Hakeem Jeffries Ilhan Omar Kevin McCarthy Mike Turner Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib Steve Cohen Tom Malinowski Will Hurd

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