House votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments'

The House on Tuesday voted to formally admonish President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments 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 BrooksOregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden won't seek reelection Here 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 MORE (Ind.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickOvernight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Billboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving Mark Ruffalo brings fight against 'forever chemicals' to Capitol Hill MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdCNN's Bianna Golodryga: 'Rumblings' from Democrats on censuring Trump instead of impeachment Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy Davis: Congressman Will Hurd, If not now, when? MORE (Texas) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonShimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement Trump urges GOP to fight for him 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 AmashTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan On The Money: Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown | Trump asks Supreme Court to shield financial records from House Democrats | House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading Amash: Democrats missed opportunity in hearing to 'persuade people' on Trump impeachment 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) MalinowskiMore than 100 Democrats sign letter calling for Stephen Miller to resign Diplomat ties Trump closer to Ukraine furor Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point 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 Pelosi 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments Bloomberg: Trump should be impeached On The Money: Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown | Trump asks Supreme Court to shield financial records from House Democrats | House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading MORE (D-Calif.) asserted that Trump’s remarks were inherently racist — a charge immediately challenged by Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsDoug Collins wants hearing with GOP witnesses before articles of impeachment Collins swipes at Nadler: 'Does the chairman even know what's going on?' Three legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise 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-CortezOcasio-Cortez on food assistance cuts: 'If this happened then, we might've just starved' Youth climate activists grade top 2020 Democrats on Green New Deal commitment Sanders to join youth climate strikers in Iowa MORE (D-N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse moves ahead on long-stalled resolution supporting two states for Israelis and Palestinians GOP leader says he had 'a hard time' believing Pelosi Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAl Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Hillicon Valley: Trump officials propose retaliatory tariffs over French digital tax | FBI classifies FaceApp as threat | Twitter revamps policies to comply with privacy laws | Zuckerberg defends political ads policy MORE (D-Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyAl Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Warren adds Ayanna Pressley as campaign co-chair Warren speech in Georgia interrupted by pro-charter school protesters 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 McCarthyHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea GOP leader says he had 'a hard time' believing Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi says House will move forward with impeachment 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 passes stopgap as spending talks stall Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure 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.