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History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week

Even in the volatile Trump era, this was an extraordinary and historic week in Washington. 

The House voted to condemn a sitting president for “racist” tweets. The Speaker’s words were stricken from the record only to be restored minutes later in a controversial vote. The lower chamber voted to hold two top Cabinet officials in contempt of Congress.

And Democrats and Republicans teamed up to kill the first impeachment effort against President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE brought forth in the new Democratic majority.  

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“It certainly was a contentious week, and in many respects, an unbelievable week,” Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who’s spent more than two decades in the House, told The Hill.

Partisanship on Capitol Hill has been getting more entrenched for years, but the tensions have escalated under Trump and seemed to come to a head this week in a perfect storm of racial acrimony, partisan finger-pointing and even concerns about violent attacks against members of Congress.

“We are beginning to see the radioactive fallout of this presidency on this institution. That's really what you’re seeing,” Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyGOP downplays Jan. 6 violence: Like a 'normal tourist visit' Biden offers traditional address in eerie setting Overnight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales MORE (D-Va.), a former Senate staffer who’s served a decade in the House. “And what he's not used to is, he's no longer dealing with a compliant, see-and-hear-no-evil Congress. He's actually dealing with a Congress that believes oversight's real, and a constitutional requirement. And that has created a whole new environment, and I don't think anyone should be surprised that we are now reacting to his radioactivity.”

Connolly pointed to the episode of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) vacating the chair in a fit of frustration Wednesday as a striking example of just how toxic the political environment has become under Trump.

“To ask an African American in the chair to have to be complicit in ruling 'out of order' speaking the truth about the racist remarks of the president is a bridge too far for, certainly, Emanuel Cleaver, and probably for most of my [Democratic] colleagues in the House,” Connolly said. 

“All of this is unprecedented. And we're all trying to navigate our way through these very uncharted waters,” he said.

Trump unleashed a tidal wave on Sunday when he tweeted that four progressive freshman congresswomen of color who have criticized him — Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDeleted video shows Greene taunting Ocasio-Cortez's office in 2019 Tensions mount among Democrats over US-Israel policy Project Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report MORE (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' Meghan McCain: Greene 'behaving like an animal' Deleted video shows Greene taunting Ocasio-Cortez's office in 2019 MORE (D-N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDeleted video shows Greene taunting Ocasio-Cortez's office in 2019 Ocasio-Cortez hits Yang over scrapped Eid event: 'Utterly shameful' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyDems offer bill to help single-parent families get expanded child tax credit Warren says she'll run for reelection to Senate Bush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy MORE (D-Mass.) — should “go back” to their own countries. All four are American citizens; three were born in the U.S. 

The Democratic-led House responded with an extremely rare vote to condemn Trump’s remarks about the minority women, but not before the two parties brawled over whether Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' Meghan McCain: Greene 'behaving like an animal' GOP Rep. Turner to lead House push to address military sexual assault MORE (D-Calif.), Trump’s chief adversary on the Hill, could call Trump’s remarks “racist” on the floor under House rules. The parliamentarian ruled that she could not, but the decision was overturned in a vote by Democrats.

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In the same Wednesday vote series, the lower chamber voted to hold Attorney General William BarrBill BarrSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Lawyer for former officer charged in George Floyd death alleges witness coercion CNN legal analyst joins DOJ's national security division MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossFormer Trump officials find tough job market On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE in criminal contempt of Congress for ignoring Democratic subpoenas. The House killed a resolution by progressive Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenLawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats Bipartisan lawmakers call for action on anti-hate crime measures House Democrat sits on Capitol steps to protest extremist threat MORE (D-Texas) to impeach Trump, but 95 Democrats went on record saying they wanted to move forward with impeachment.

Later that night at a campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump threw fuel on the fire by invoking each of the four progressive congresswomen by name. When Trump mentioned Omar, the crowd began to chant: “Send her back! Send her back!” — words the president distanced himself from a day later. 

Democrats accused Trump of creating a security risk for the Democratic women.

“I’ve never seen a week like this week,” said another veteran of the House, Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeNow that earmarks are back, it's time to ban 'poison pill' riders Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings dies at 84 MORE (Okla.), a former member of GOP leadership who now is the top Republican on the Rules Committee. Cole said he’s never seen a lawmaker abandon the chair of the House, never seen a Speaker’s words be ruled out of order and never seen a House majority vote to reinstate those words.

Cole blamed the rising temperatures on next year’s presidential election.

“It’s a supercharged and very heated year. Everybody knows a lot is at stake moving toward the next election,” Cole said. 

“This idea that there would be a quiet off year. … The simple fact that you’ve got 20 candidates running for the Democratic side for president suggests that this is going to be a very hot year. People are gearing up. It’s a big election, and that makes governing more difficult,” he said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney: McCarthy should 'absolutely' testify before Jan. 6 commission Gohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' Axios reporter Kadia Goba rejoining BuzzFeed News to cover GOP MORE (R-Calif.) on Thursday blasted Pelosi, suggesting she abused her power as Speaker in refusing to apologize for the remarks, and later staging a vote to restore them to the congressional record.  

“She made her own House vote to give her the right to speak again — to treat her differently than everybody else. So the rules do not apply equally to everybody in this body. And we have seen this time and time again,” he said.

Rep. John LewisJohn LewisManchin breaking with Democrats on voting rights Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw Abrams issues sharp rebuke to Arizona GOP governor for signing 'devastating anti-voter bill' MORE (D-Ga.), an icon of the civil rights movement who was beaten nearly to death in Alabama in 1965, suggested tempers are flaring because lawmakers are fatigued and ready for the long August recess. 

“It is out of the ordinary. It’s just the drama of it all,” he said. “People are ready to go home, ready for a break.”

For other lawmakers of color, the president’s “go back” comments were personally painful.  

“As a racial, religious and ethnic minority who happens to be an immigrant and is a proud American, I found his comments really hit close to home because they really shake at the core of what it means to be an American,” said Rep. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiMedical supplies arriving in India amid surge in COVID-19 infections Overnight Health Care: US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries | Biden speaks with Prime Minister Modi as COVID-19 surges in India US to share millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries MORE (D-Ill.), who was born in India and became the first member of the Hindu faith to preside over the House in April.

He recalls being told to go back to his own country, “but that was maybe on the school yard or maybe in a fit of road rage. Never thought I’d hear those words coming from the president. … Now it’s considered normal, and that might be the worst outcome of what’s happened this week.”