House rejects GOP resolution to censure Waters
The House on Tuesday rejected a Republican resolution to censure Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) for saying that “we’ve got to get more confrontational” about police brutality against African Americans.
Lawmakers voted along party lines 216-210, with no defections on either side, to table the resolution from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that would have issued the chamber’s harshest disapproval short of expulsion.
Republicans argued that Waters incited violence with her remarks at a protest over the weekend in Minneapolis, where tensions are spiking over the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who’s charged with the murder of George Floyd, and the recent police killing of Daunte Wright.
The resolution’s text cites comments on Monday from the judge in the Chauvin trial, who criticized the remarks from Waters and warned they could give the defense “something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
Democrats cast Republicans’ outrage over Waters as hypocritical given how many of them defended former President Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and other GOP lawmakers accused of inciting violence ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection or of other misconduct.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) cited the examples of Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Greene and described each as a “mess.”
“Clean up your mess, Kevin. Sit this one out. You’ve got no credibility here,” Jeffries said.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) dodged a question at a press conference earlier Tuesday about why Republicans believed Waters deserved censure but not Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who said at a rally outside the White House on Jan. 6 that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”
“Well, first of all, I’ve been very clear in speaking out against any kind of political rhetoric that incites violence,” Scalise said before pivoting back to Waters.
“Right now, I haven’t heard any Democrats speaking out against what Maxine has said. And it’s time for Democrats to speak out when they see it on both sides. They only want to speak out on one side of the aisle, not on both. And that hypocrisy, I think, is starting to shine through.”
House Democratic leaders all rallied behind Waters, but their margin for defeating McCarthy’s resolution was extraordinarily tight. They can currently afford only two defections and still prevail on any vote in the face of unified GOP opposition.
Many centrist Democrats in swing districts are sensitive to any incendiary remarks about police after blaming progressive activists’ calls for “defunding the police” for their electoral losses last November.
Republicans have seized on censuring Waters days after outcry over initial plans by Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) to launch a caucus with a draft policy platform that called for promoting “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and infrastructure that reflects “European architecture.”
McCarthy and other top House Republicans quickly distanced themselves from the proposed caucus that threatened to subject the party to an internal debate over white supremacy. But in the last few days, Republicans have united around sanctioning Waters.
Waters said on Saturday while attending an anti-police brutality protest in Minnesota that “we’ve got to get justice in this country, and we cannot allow these killings to continue.”
“We’ve got to stay on the street, and we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” Waters told reporters.
Waters maintained in an interview with The Grio on Monday that she wasn’t encouraging violence.
“I talk about confronting the justice system, confronting the policing that’s going on, I’m talking about speaking up. I’m talking about legislation. I’m talking about elected officials doing what needs to be done to control their budgets and to pass legislation,” Waters said.
It’s not the first time that Waters, the outspoken House Financial Services Committee chairwoman and senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, has drawn ire from Republicans.
Waters encouraged supporters in 2018 to harass Trump administration officials in public over the separation of migrant families, saying that “if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
And in 2017, Waters told a crowd that she would “go and take out Trump tonight.”
It’s rare for the House to take punitive action against one of its members.
House Democrats — and 11 Republicans — voted in February to remove Greene from serving on any committees due to her apparent endorsements of violence against prominent Democrats and past embrace of conspiracy theories.
Greene previously “liked” a Facebook comment in January 2019 that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). And last September, Greene posted a photo of herself on Facebook holding a gun alongside images of progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) with the caption “Squad’s Worst Nightmare.”
In 2019, House GOP leaders stripped then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments for questioning why the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalism” were considered offensive, following years of other comments considered racist.
The House adopted a bipartisan resolution days later to formally condemn white supremacy and white nationalism, although the measure didn’t directly rebuke King.
Later in 2019, Omar made remarks widely panned as anti-Semitic for suggesting that the pro-Israel lobby “says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” The House subsequently passed a resolution broadly condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry, although it didn’t directly name Omar amid Democratic divisions over how far to sanction her.
Only 23 House members have been censured in the chamber’s history, most recently in 2010 when former Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) was censured over a string of ethics violations related to misusing congressional resources and failing to pay taxes on a vacation home.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned that Democrats could take up censure resolutions that have been introduced by Democrats to sanction Republicans over their inflammatory rhetoric ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including Brooks and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). More than 70 Democrats have also backed a resolution to expel Greene from Congress altogether.
“As my friend the leader knows, we haven’t had all the resolutions that have been introduced on my side of the aisle. This makes it harder, however, not to proceed on numerous resolutions on my side of the aisle,” Hoyer said.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.