House votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments'

The House on Tuesday voted to formally admonish President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders 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 BrooksThe rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 Hispanic Democrats endorse Latina for open Indiana seat Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks MORE (Ind.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' This week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill House approves pro-union labor bill MORE (Pa.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGarth Brooks accepts Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Texas kicks off critical battle for House control Gun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 MORE (Texas) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Defense: Pentagon curtails more exercises over coronavirus | House passes Iran war powers measure | Rocket attack hits Iraqi base with US troops House passes measure limiting Trump's ability to take military action against Iran House passes .3 billion measure to fight coronavirus 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 AmashCOVID-19, Bill Barr and the American authoritarian tradition Pelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid Amash calls stimulus package 'a raw deal' for 'those who need the most help' 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) MalinowskiDemocrats eye remote voting options Hispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Safety in sick leave 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 PelosiNJ governor calls for assessment of coronavirus response after crisis abates Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus MORE (D-Calif.) asserted that Trump’s remarks were inherently racist — a charge immediately challenged by Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Loeffler traded .4M in stocks as Congress responded to coronavirus pandemic Georgia makes it easier to get mail-in ballots after delaying primary 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-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response MORE (D-N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus 20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Pressley, Tlaib introduce bill providing .5B in emergency grants for the homeless MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTexas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Undocumented aliens should stay away as COVID-19 rages in the US The Southern Poverty Law Center and yesterday's wars MORE (D-Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyMaryland Legislative Black Caucus pushes for state to release racial breakdown of coronavirus impact Pressley experiencing flu-like symptoms, being tested for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill 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 McCarthyDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Stocks move little after record-breaking unemployment claims 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-BalartBottom Line House chairwoman diagnosed with 'presumed' coronavirus infection Capitol officials extend suspension of tourist access until May 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.