House to vote Wednesday to censure Gosar, remove him from committees

The House will vote Wednesday on a resolution to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and take away his committee assignments for posting an anime video that depicted him violently attacking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and President Biden.

The move, confirmed by sources familiar with the plan, would make Gosar just the 24th House member to be censured in the chamber’s history and the first in more than a decade.

Censure is an extraordinarily rare and dramatic punitive measure that requires the sanctioned lawmaker to stand in the center of the chamber as the resolution is read aloud by the House Speaker. 

Gosar currently serves on the Oversight and Reform panel alongside Ocasio-Cortez. The resolution will also take away his other seat on the House Natural Resources Committee, where he serves as the top Republican on its oversight subcommittee.

Republicans warned that the move would lead the House down a slippery slope where they might remove Democrats from committees in the future if they take over the majority. But Democrats said that any depiction or apparent endorsement of violence should not be tolerated. 

“At some point, it has to stop,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). 

The Arizona Republican ultimately deleted the video last week following backlash over its depiction of violence against two of the nation’s most prominent Democrats at a time when lawmakers face unprecedented threats — most notably the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Capitol Police said earlier this fall that threats against lawmakers were at an all-time high. 

Gosar defended the video earlier Tuesday during a closed-door House Republican Conference meeting and said he hadn’t seen it before it was posted to his Twitter account last week. 

He also sought to clarify that he doesn’t support violence against political opponents. Last week, Gosar said the video was meant to be “symbolic” of the debate over immigration and that Ocasio-Cortez represented “Democrats’ open border amnesty agenda.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday after the meeting that “it was not [Gosar’s] intent to ever harm anybody.”

Gosar declined to answer reporters’ questions as he entered the House chamber for votes shortly before Democratic leaders finalized the plan to take punitive action against him. 

Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, expressed disgust with Gosar and said she’d ideally like him to be expelled from Congress altogether. 

She added that neither Gosar nor McCarthy have reached out to her since the video came out, arguing that it showed a lack of remorse.

“I think that in a perfect world, he would be expelled,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “If he was telling the truth, he would have apologized by now. But it’s been well over a week.” 

The censure resolution, introduced last week by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a Democratic Women’s Caucus co-chair, states that “depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on January 6, 2021.”

The last House member to be censured was former Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) in 2010 over a variety of ethics violations, including failing to pay taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic and misusing official letterhead for fundraising.

The other types of misconduct leading to censure over the past two centuries have included House members engaging in violence toward colleagues, using “unparliamentary language” to insult a fellow lawmaker during floor debate, and sexual misconduct with House pages. 

Democrats have long eyed taking punitive action against Gosar, one of the most far-right members of the House GOP conference. 

Gosar will be removed from the committee where, during a hearing in May, he defended a rioter who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer on Jan. 6 while attempting to breach the Speaker’s Lobby leading directly to the House chamber as lawmakers and staff were still evacuating.

Gosar defended the rioter, Ashli Babbitt, as a “veteran wrapped in an American flag” who was “executed.”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) subsequently introduced a resolution to censure Gosar over those remarks, along with two other House Republicans who similarly tried to downplay the severity of the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at that hearing. But that resolution ultimately didn’t go anywhere. 

Wednesday’s vote will mark the second time this year that Democrats have removed a Republican from a House committee over what they believed to be unacceptable behavior.

In February, House Democrats — as well as 11 Republicans — voted to take away Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) committee assignments for her past embrace of conspiracy theories and appearing to endorse violence against Democrats.

Wednesday’s vote is likely to fall mostly along party lines. Just two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), have expressed support in recent days for censuring Gosar.

McCarthy, meanwhile, is trying to walk a tightrope of maintaining good relations with the far-right members of his conference while not wanting to appear like he condones depictions of political violence.

Rather than push to take punitive action against Gosar, some Republicans launched an effort Tuesday to oust Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) as the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee for his vote this month in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.  

Katko and the other 12 House Republicans who voted for the bill have faced death threats in recent days for helping deliver a legislative victory for Biden. 

McCarthy said that such threats should not be condoned either.

“I’m opposed to any person getting any death threat or security problem whatsoever,” McCarthy said.

Updated at 6:03 p.m.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Charlie Rangel David Cicilline Jackie Speier Joe Biden John Katko Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Marjorie Taylor Greene Paul Gosar

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