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House votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments'

The House on Tuesday voted to formally admonish President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge 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 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year The year of the Republican woman The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory MORE (Ind.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDivided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  Fitzpatrick wins reelection in Pennsylvania MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (Texas) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Republican Michigan congressman: 'The people have spoken' GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics 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 AmashIncoming GOP lawmaker shares video of hotel room workout, citing 'Democrat tyrannical control' Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Romney congratulates Biden after victory 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) MalinowskiFive things to know about Antony Blinken, Biden's pick for State Malinowski beats back GOP challenge in New Jersey House race Phil Murphy says no coronavirus outbreaks in New Jersey linked to Trump fundraiser 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 PelosiClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight MORE (D-Calif.) asserted that Trump’s remarks were inherently racist — a charge immediately challenged by Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsGroups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Majority say they want GOP in control of Senate: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans 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-CortezClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere Trump tweets Thanksgiving criticism of NFL QBs for kneeling MORE (D-N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMeet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 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 McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight 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-BalartHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus 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.