House votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments'

The House on Tuesday voted to formally admonish President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE, approving a resolution condemning as “racist” his tweets targeting four minority congresswomen.

The 240-187 vote fell largely along partisan lines, as GOP leaders rushed to the president’s defense in whipping against the measure. 

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Just four Republicans, Reps. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Pelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House The Hill's 12:30 Report: House panel approves impeachment powers MORE (Ind.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats claim new momentum from intelligence watchdog testimony Romney: Trump requesting Biden investigation from China, Ukraine 'wrong and appalling' GOP lawmaker: 'It is terrible' for Trump to call on China to probe Biden MORE (Texas) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine House passes bill to revamp medical screenings for migrants at border Energy efficiency cannot be a partisan issue for Washington MORE (Mich.), broke party ranks to join every voting Democrat in support, revealing the extent to which Trump retains his grip over the Republican Party even as his incendiary remarks renewed uncomfortable questions about the president’s approach to race relations. 

Brooks is not running for reelection next year, but the other three lawmakers all are in races considered competitive. Six Republicans missed the vote.

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash says he's happy not feeling 'bound to a particular party' Amash on Syria: Trump's not ending anything Trump says House Democrats 'unfortunately' have the votes to impeach MORE (I-Mich.), who recently left the GOP over differences with Trump, also backed the resolution.

Trump’s remarks saying the progressive lawmakers should “go back” to the “places from which they came” sparked a tempest of outrage, with Democrats uniting to push back against the attack despite recent divisions between various factions of the party spilling into the public. 

The resolution was led by freshman Rep. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiIn testimony, Dems see an ambassador scorned, while GOP defends Trump Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference MORE (D-N.J.), who is white but was born in Poland. He argued it was a necessary step to push back against racist rhetoric from the White House. 

 “Even if we may disagree on the details of immigration or border policy, racism is wrong, it is un-American,” Malinowski told The Hill. 

 “It’s not who we are. It is playing with fire because the words that the president used are heard by people with disturbed minds who do terrible things, violent things, and a line needs to be drawn,” he continued. “So that’s what we hope to do.”

The vote capped a chaotic day on Capitol Hill, featuring a tumultuous floor debate leading up to passage of the resolution. As the sides sparred, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhy calls for impeachment have become commonplace The Constitution doesn't require a vote to start the impeachment process Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support MORE (D-Calif.) asserted that Trump’s remarks were inherently racist — a charge immediately challenged by Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsUS, UK sign agreement allowing British authorities to quickly obtain data from tech giants Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia GOP rep: Pelosi would allow floor vote if this were a 'true' impeachment inquiry MORE (Ga.), senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who argued she violated House rules forbidding personal attacks against the president on the floor. 

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In the midst of the deliberations — which lasted more than an hour — over whether she violated the rules, presiding member Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) vacated the chair out of frustration with the partisan bickering, arguing both parties had been treated fairly in the floor debate.

“We don’t ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that’s what this is,” he said. “I dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there is unfairness, but unfairness is not enough because we want to just fight.”

“I abandon the chair,” he then stated before slamming his gavel down and leaving his position. 

The remarkable episode marked the first time a Speaker’s words were challenged on the floor since the mid-1980s, when legendary Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) faced a similar standoff with Republicans.

The ensuing back-and-forth ostensibly revolved around dry questions of procedure. But the esoteric parley couldn’t disguise the heightened partisan tensions surrounding the controversial language of a president many Democrats deem innately bigoted. Pelosi, for her part, was unapologetic, and House Democrats ultimately voted to allow her comments to remain in the congressional record despite the parliamentarian ruling them out of order. 

“I stand by my statement,” Pelosi said shortly before the vote. “I’m proud of the attention that’s being called to it, because what the president said was completely inappropriate.” 

That vote allowed to retain her speaking privileges on the floor for the remainder of the day. 

Trump started the firestorm on Sunday, when he tweeted suggesting that a quartet of liberal minority freshmen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrat launches primary challenge to Ocasio-Cortez Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Washington Times after story on her 'high-dollar hairdo' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — House Dems subpoena Giuliani associates MORE (D-N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibTlaib says Democrats have discussed detaining White House officials who don't testify The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Detroit police chief calls Tlaib facial recognization idea 'racist' MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions Trump attacks Omar as 'America-hating socialist' at Minnesota rally MORE (D-Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPennsylvania candidate would be first autistic woman elected to a state legislature Pressley joins hundreds of activists calling for Kavanaugh impeachment: 'I believe in the power of us' The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment MORE (D-Mass.) — were somehow un-American because of their ethnicity.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump wrote.

Three of the four lawmakers — Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley — were born in the United States. Omar, born in Somalia, fled violence in that country and became a U.S. citizen in 2000. 

The measure “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.” It also vows that the United States will remain open to those “lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin.”

It also states that “immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger and that those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations.” 

House GOP leadership informally whipped members of the Republican conference against the resolution ahead of the vote, arguing it was a purely political move by Democrats. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyFive ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions Cheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey MORE (R-Calif.) said Trump’s attacks on the minority women were designed simply to highlight the liberal policy preferences of the four outspoken freshmen, not to target them because of their ethnicity.

“I believe this is about ideology,” McCarthy said. “This is about socialism versus freedom, and it’s very clear what the debate is happening.”

While just four GOP lawmakers ultimately voted for the resolution, numerous GOP members voiced their disapproval of the president’s comments on Monday. But despite their vocal objections, most of those GOP critics ultimately voted against the measure, arguing they saw it as a Democratic gambit intended for political gain. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartTrump calls on Supreme Court to strike down DACA, says deal possible Yes, President Trump, we do have a homelessness crisis and you're making it harder for us to address Congress sends a clear message that America is stronger for helping refugees MORE (R-Fla.) — who said he strongly disagreed with the portion of the president’s tweet telling the lawmakers to “go back” to where they came from — said he believes more GOP members would have voted for the resolution if Democrats had reached across the aisle to craft a bipartisan resolution.

“This resolution is meant to be a political statement and that’s pretty clear,” he told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s vote. 

“I don’t think the floor of the House is a place to be utilizing to do, you know, blatantly political statements. But you can,” he added. “So that’s what the majority is doing.” 

Cristina Marcos contributed.