WASHINGTON — The House voted on Tuesday to condemn as racist President Trump’s attacks against four congresswomen of color, but only after the debate over the president’s language devolved into a bitterly partisan brawl that showcased deep rifts over race, ethnicity and political ideology in the age of Trump.
The measure passed nearly along party lines, 240-187, following one of the most polarizing exchanges on the House floor in recent memory. Only four Republicans and the House’s lone independent, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, voted with all Democrats to condemn Mr. Trump.
“I know racism when I see it, I know racism when I feel it, and at the highest level of government, there’s no room for racism,” thundered Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, an icon of the civil rights movement who was nearly beaten to death in Alabama in 1965.
Some Republicans were just as adamant in their defense of Mr. Trump: “What has really happened here is that the president and his supporters have been forced to endure months of allegations of racism,” said Representative Dan Meuser, Republican of Pennsylvania. “This ridiculous slander does a disservice to our nation.”
[Read the text of the resolution.]
Republicans ground the proceedings to a halt shortly before the House was preparing to vote on the nonbinding resolution, which calls Mr. Trump’s tweets and verbal volleys “racist comments that have legitimized increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” Republicans voted en masse against the measure, which was the Democrats’ response to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who he said should “go back” to their countries, a well-worn racist trope that he has continued to employ in the days since.
“There’s no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong, unified condemnation,” Ms. Pelosi said as the House debated the resolution. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.”
As Republicans rose to protest, Ms. Pelosi turned toward them on the House floor and picked up her speech, her voice rising as she added, “To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.”
Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, made a formal objection to the remarks, charging that they had violated the rules of decorum in the House, which call for lawmakers to avoid impugning the motives of their colleagues or the president. It was a stunning turn for a resolution that was drafted in response to Mr. Trump’s own incendiary language.
President Trump held up a sheet of paper showing a photograph of Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday at the White House.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Trump on Tuesday denied that his tweets were racist and implored House Republicans to reject the measure. The president raged on Twitter, calling the House resolution a “con game” as he renewed his harsh criticism of the congresswomen.
“Those Tweets were NOT Racist,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap.”
Later at the White House, the president did not back away from his original comment, saying of the quartet, “they can leave.”
“They should love our country. They shouldn’t hate our country,” he continued.
The vote on Tuesday evening marked a show of unity for Democrats who had been squabbling for weeks — and a test of Republican principles. But as the debate played out, the scene devolved into a spectacle. Republicans sought to turn the tables and condemn Ms. Pelosi for her remarks about Mr. Trump — which many Democrats had echoed in their own speeches before her — touching off tumult as officials scrambled to review House rules and determine how to proceed.
At one point, Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, Democrat of Missouri, who was presiding in the House when Republicans challenged Ms. Pelosi’s words, banged the gavel, rose from the marble dais, and stormed off the House floor. “We aren’t ever, ever going to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that’s what this is,” Mr. Cleaver said, his voice rising in frustration. “We want to just fight.”
For their part, Republicans took to the floor not to defend the president’s remarks but to condemn Democrats for what they called a breach of decorum for calling Mr. Trump out.
Ultimately, it was left to Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the majority leader, to recite the official ruling that Ms. Pelosi had, in fact, violated a House rule against characterizing an action as “racist.” The move by Republicans to have her words stricken from the record then failed along party lines, and Ms. Pelosi was unrepentant.
“I stand by my statement,” she said as she strode through the Capitol. “I’m proud of the attention being called to it, because what the president said was completely inappropriate.”
The scene underscored the intensity of feeling sparked by Mr. Trump’s latest comments. Republicans spent the day not so much defending the president’s tweets as arguing that Democrats, particularly Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s “Squad,” were no better.
“In those tweets, I see nothing that references anybody’s race — not a thing — I don’t see anyone’s name being referenced in the tweets, but the president’s referring to people, congresswomen, who are anti-American,” said Representative Sean P. Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin. “And lo and behold, everybody in this chamber knows who he’s talking about.”
His comments prompted an angry response from Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, who sought to register an official objection. She said the use of the word “anti-American” was “completely inappropriate” but was not allowed to formally ask to have the words stricken.
At a closed-door meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday morning, Ms. Pelosi set the stage for the debate, calling the four freshman congresswomen “our sisters,” and saying the insults to which Mr. Trump had subjected them echo hurtful and offensive remarks he makes every day.
“So this is a resolution based in who we are as a people, as well as a recognition of the unacceptability of what his goals were,” Ms. Pelosi told Democrats, according to an aide present for the private meeting who described her remarks on condition of anonymity. “This is, I hope, one where we will get Republican support. If they can’t support condemning the words of the president, well, that’s a message in and of itself.”
A smattering of Republicans have denounced the president’s performance, including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. Mr. Trump’s comments “were shameful, they were racist,” he told WBUR in Boston, “and they bring a tremendous amount of, sort of, disgrace to public policy and public life and I condemn them all.”
But Republican leaders refrained from criticizing Mr. Trump, at least directly, and top House Republicans were pressing their colleagues to oppose the resolution.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader and a close ally of the president’s, said he would oppose the measure, and when asked whether Mr. Trump’s tweets were racist, replied flatly, “No.”
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, did say that politicians from all ends of the ideological spectrum should dial back their rhetoric, saying, “everybody ought to tone it down,”
but he did not take issue with the president, telling reporters who asked whether his tweets were racist, “The president’s not a racist.”
On Monday, hours after President Trump defended his Twitter attacks on Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna S. Pressley, the four Democratic congresswomen of color held a news conference to respond to his remarks.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Earlier, Mr. Trump attempted to shift the focus to what he called “HORRIBLE” things said by the four liberal freshmen congresswomen, who have been among the most outspoken in their party in their criticisms of him, including at a news conference on Monday where they described Mr. Trump as racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and criminal.
“This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country,” Mr. Trump wrote.
While some Democrats had pressed for a stronger resolution of censure, House leaders opted instead for a narrower measure based on Mr. Trump’s latest remarks, in an effort to generate a unanimous vote in their party.
During the meeting on Tuesday morning, Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Rules Committee, warned members to take care with their language during the debate, including checking with the official in charge of enforcing floor procedures to make sure their speeches would not violate House rules against making personal references to the president on the floor.
Ms. Pelosi advised Democrats to focus on how Mr. Trump’s “words were racist,” which would keep them in compliance with the rules. Later, after Mr. Collins objected to her speech, Ms. Pelosi shot back that she had cleared them in advance to ensure they were within bounds.
While the vote is symbolic and nonbinding, the debate dramatized the conflict between Democrats and a president who has organized his agenda and his re-election campaign around stoking racial controversy, and casting the group of progressive stars as dangerous extremists to be feared.
Among other things, the resolution declares that the House “believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger,” that “those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations,” and that the House “is committed to keeping America open to those lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin.”
One after another, Republicans rose to reject the criticism of Mr. Trump, arguing that it was Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues, who have sometimes used coarse language to describe the president and his policies, who should be rebuked and punished for their words and conduct.
“When we consider the power of this chamber to legislate for the common good, I wonder why my colleagues have become so eager to attack the president they are willing to sacrifice the rules, precedent and the integrity of the people’s house for an unprecedented vote that undercuts its very democratic processes,” Mr. Collins said.
Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com