Gosar faces increasing odds of censure on House floor
The chances of the House voting to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) are rising amid simmering anger among Democrats over a video he distributed that showed him as an anime character killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Pressure is mounting on Democratic leaders to bring a resolution introduced Friday by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and 60 other Democrats to the House floor as rank-and-file members argue that his actions merit extraordinary sanction at a time when members of Congress face unprecedented threats of violence.
At least two Republicans signaled in recent days that they could also support censuring Gosar amid widening fears about how heated rhetoric and violent imagery can lead to actual political violence.
So far this year, Democratic leaders have held off on allowing House floor votes to censure several other House Republicans, primarily related to promoting former President Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election or downplaying the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Yet many Democrats feel that Gosar’s actions this time go beyond the pale, especially while GOP leaders have remained publicly silent.
Speier said she is planning to meet Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who called for ethics and law enforcement investigations into Gosar.
“It is yet another example of inciting violence,” Speier told The Hill. “And the more we normalize this, the more likely we’re going to see something tragic happen.”
“People need to recognize words matter. Conduct matters. And if you are going to threaten people, there’s going to be repercussions.”
Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) have signaled that they would support censuring Gosar — a significant shift from previous censure debates.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has yet to publicly comment on the Gosar video — which also depicted the Arizona Republican swinging swords at President Biden — or on the attacks in recent days against the 13 House Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Some of the 13 Republicans have received death threats in recent days for helping deliver a legislative victory for Biden.
Democrats initially tried to put pressure on McCarthy to publicly rebuke Gosar earlier this past week. Pelosi urged McCarthy to condemn the video, while the chairs of House Democrats’ communications arm issued a joint statement declaring that McCarthy “needs to decide whether he will finally stand with the American people on the side of law and order or he will continue to support violence and chaos.”
But now, some think it’s time to take the matter into their own hands.
“I fundamentally believe that we as a body should take action,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), who also serves as a Democratic Women’s Caucus co-chair.
“If we sit silent, it becomes normal for a member to use a dog whistle of violence against a sitting member and against a sitting president, for crying out loud. Is this okay? And is it okay for those who represent over 700,000 people in this country as a collective body to just turn our heads? We’ve seen where that gets us,” Lawrence said.
Pelosi has yet to say if she supports censuring Gosar and bringing the measure to the House floor for a vote. A spokesman didn’t return a request for comment from The Hill.
Gosar defended the video as “symbolic” of the debate over immigration and maintained that “I do not espouse violence or harm towards any Member of Congress or Mr. Biden.”
But Gosar removed the video from Twitter on Tuesday following the outcry.
This isn’t the first time that some Democrats have pushed to censure Gosar this year.
In May, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced a resolution to censure Gosar for saying during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing that a rioter fatally shot outside the House chamber on Jan. 6 was “executed” and that the Justice Department is “harassing peaceful patriots across the country.”
But that measure hasn’t gone anywhere, nor have any of the other resolutions this year to censure Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Andrew Clyde (Ga.) and Jody Hice (Ga.).
Democrats, along with 11 Republicans, did vote to boot Greene from House committees in February for her past embrace of conspiracy theories and apparent endorsements of violence against Democrats.
Gosar’s latest actions prompted Kinzinger and Cheney, who have broken with the GOP on its continued embrace of Trump, to take the rare move of endorsing censure against a member of their own party.
Cheney said in an interview with The Associated Press that Gosar should be censured “for his continued indefensible activities,” while Kinzinger told CNN that he “would intend to vote yes.”
“I don’t care if it’s a Republican or a Democrat, we cannot in this country, Wolf, get to a point where using anime even, which is creepy in and of itself, but using anime or regular videos or deep fakes or even just tweeted threats against a sitting member of Congress can be acceptable. It is never acceptable. It can’t be acceptable,” Kinzinger told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Their support for censuring Gosar would give Democrats some bipartisan cover for going down a path that they’ve otherwise hesitated to follow this year — even if the behavior of some Republicans has infuriated members of the rank-and-file.
Just 23 lawmakers have been censured in the House’s history. The last time a House member was censured was in 2010, when former Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was found guilty of ethics violations ranging from misusing congressional letterhead for fundraising to failing to pay taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic.
McCarthy, meanwhile, forced a procedural floor vote in April to censure Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) after she said “we’ve got to get more confrontational” about police brutality against African Americans.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned at the time that Republicans’ insistence on forcing that vote could make it harder for Democrats to justify holding back on censuring some GOP members.
“As my friend the leader knows, we haven’t had all the resolutions that have been introduced on my side of the aisle,” Hoyer said in response to McCarthy. “This makes it harder, however, not to proceed on numerous resolutions on my side of the aisle.”
Speier said that this time should be different compared to the other censure efforts that ultimately went nowhere.
“I believe it should be,” Speier said.