House votes to censure Gosar and boot him from committees
The House voted almost entirely along party lines on Wednesday to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and take away his committee seats for posting an anime video depicting him violently attacking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and President Biden.
Only two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), joined all Democrats as the House voted 223-207, with Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) voting “present,” to punish Gosar.
In an extraordinary scene, Gosar was forced to stand in the center of the House floor as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) read aloud the resolution that made him just the 24th lawmaker in the chamber’s more than 200-year history to be censured.
Gosar will also be removed from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he has served with Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the House Natural Resources Committee.
Democratic leaders had previously held off on allowing votes on resolutions to censure several other Republicans this year, primarily for promoting former President Trump’s false claims of 2020 election fraud or downplaying the severity of the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
But they ultimately decided that the edited anime video posted by Gosar last week, which portrayed him killing Ocasio-Cortez and swinging swords at Biden, went too far at a time when members of Congress face unprecedented levels of violent threats.
Ocasio-Cortez urged her colleagues in an impassioned House floor speech ahead of the vote to make clear that they won’t tolerate any lawmaker promoting depictions of political violence.
“What is so hard about saying that this is wrong? This is not about me. This is not about Rep. Gosar. But this is about what we are willing to accept,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Ocasio-Cortez rejected Gosar’s claims that the video was meant to be “symbolic” of the debate over immigration and accused him and other Republicans of engaging in “nihilism” that “conveys and betrays a certain contempt for the meaning and importance of our work here.”
“Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service. And as leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country. And that is where we must draw the line, independent of party, identity or belief,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Moments later, Gosar rose on the House floor to defend the video and argued it “directly contributes to the understanding and the discussion of the real-life battle resulting from this administration’s open-border policies.”
Gosar notably did not apologize for the video and used the term “self-censored” to describe his decision to eventually remove it from Twitter.
“I do not espouse violence towards anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset. I voluntarily took the cartoon down, not because it was itself a threat but because some thought it was. Out of compassion for those who genuinely felt offense, I self-censored,” Gosar said.
The resolution rebuking Gosar 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.”
“Violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted,” it adds.
Wednesday’s vote marks the second time this year that House Democrats have moved to take away a Republican’s committee assignments in the absence of any formal rebuke from GOP leaders.
In February, Democrats — along with 11 Republicans — voted to boot Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from House committees for her past embrace of conspiracy theories such as suggesting some mass shootings were staged and appearing to endorse violence against Democrats.
By contrast, in 2019, GOP leaders stripped former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee seats for appearing to question why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” were considered offensive following a long history of inflammatory remarks about race and immigration.
Republicans warned Wednesday of a slippery slope where they might choose to remove Democrats from committees in retaliation if the GOP takes over the House majority in the future. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pointed to House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) telling protesters earlier this year to “get more confrontational” about police brutality toward Black people and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) saying that “Israel has hypnotized the world” as examples of remarks that Republicans might sanction.
“It means that under the Pelosi precedent, all of the members that I have mentioned earlier will need the approval of a majority to keep those positions in the future,” McCarthy said. He then paused and cast his gaze on Democrats on the other side of the House chamber for emphasis.
But Democrats maintained they had no qualms about setting a precedent of refusing to tolerate any lawmaker promoting violence.
“It is a sad day for the House of Representatives but a necessary day,” said Pelosi.
While few GOP lawmakers joined the effort to take punitive action against Gosar, some far-right members are pushing to take away committee seats from the 13 House Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill earlier this month.
Joyce said he voted “present” because he is a member of the House Ethics Committee.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to allow the Ethics Committee to do its job and address any alleged violations of the U.S. House of Representatives’ rules or any related conduct by House Members, officers, or employees,” Joyce said in a statement.
McCarthy discouraged his rank and file from punishing one another for their actions, whether against Gosar for the anime video or against the 13 Republicans who helped deliver a long-sought legislative victory for Biden.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) filed a motion on Tuesday to oust Rep. John Katko (N.Y.) as the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee for his vote in favor of the infrastructure bill, but for now, the GOP conference isn’t taking it up.
The sanctions against Gosar, one of the most far-right members of the House, are a long time coming.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in May introduced a resolution to censure Gosar for his defense of a rioter who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer while trying to breach the Speaker’s Lobby, which leads directly to the House chamber, as lawmakers and staff were still evacuating during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on law enforcement’s handling of Jan. 6, Gosar described the rioter, Ashli Babbitt, as a “veteran wrapped in an American flag” who was “executed.”
Democrats also widely condemned Gosar, along with Greene, for proposing a new Trump-aligned caucus in April that called for a “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” The caucus ultimately never came to fruition after McCarthy obliquely tweeted that the GOP is “the party of Lincoln” and “not nativist dog whistles.”
Gosar also spoke at a conference in February whose organizer had expressed white nationalist views.
The last House member to face censure was former Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) in 2010 over a litany of ethics violations, including using official letterhead for fundraising purposes and failing to report rental income or pay taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic.
The other kinds of misconduct leading the House to impose one of its harshest punishments over the last two centuries have included engaging in violence toward fellow lawmakers, insulting colleagues during floor debate, supporting recognition of the Confederacy and sexual misconduct with House pages.