A resolution condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s racially charged attacks on four Democratic congresswomen was delayed for more than an hour after an objection by House Republicans to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s remarks criticizing the president’s tweets.
During a floor speech, the California Democrat said Trump’s tweets were “disgraceful and disgusting and the comments were racist.” She said Republicans should join Democrats in condemning “the president’s racist tweets” and to not do so would be “a shameful abdication” of lawmakers’ oath of office.
The measure, which would be symbolic and have no force of law, was expected to pass, since Democrats have a majority in the House, with any Republican support for the resolution signalling that Trump’s attacks had crossed a line.
Watch Pelosi condemn Trump’s recent comments:
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent remarks against for Democratic congresswomen. 1:01
Republican Rep. Doug Collins said Pelosi’s words should be stricken from the House record, a rare procedural move. But its importance was escalated in a fight that pits Democrats against the president.
In an unusual move, Democratic Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who was overseeing the debate, stormed away from the presiding officer’s chair.
“We don’t ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate. And that’s what this is,” he said just before he stormed off.
“We want to just fight. I abandon the chair.”
The motion to strike Pelosi’s comments was later rejected, clearing the way for the debate to resume.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan have been critical of Trump as well as of the current Democratic leaders of the House, straining party unity in that chamber.
The four are minority women on the Democrats’ progressive wing and in their first terms in Congress. All are U.S. citizens, with three born in the United States.
Watch the response from four Democratic congresswomen to Trump:
The four congresswomen of colour understood to be the target of the U.S. president’s recent barbs responded by telling their supporters to ‘not take the bait.’ 2:16
Trump triggered the controversy during the weekend by tweeting the four should “go back” where they came from.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, got into a terse exchange with a reporter while attempting to defend Trumps tweets. At the beginning of the exchange, she asked: “What’s your ethnicity?”
Watch Conway’s exchange with the reporter:
While discussing Trump’s ongoing polemic with four Democratic congresswomen, Conway asks a reporter ‘what’s your ethnicity?’ 0:59
Trump called on fellow Republicans to stick with him, “not show weakness” and oppose the House resolution.
“I will vote against this resolution,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California told reporters, calling the measure “all politics.”
Watch McCarthy respond when asked if he thought Trump’s tweets were racist:
U.S. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, says the ongoing polemic between the president and four Democratic congresswomen is about ideology. 0:20
No. 3 House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming said the four Democrats “are wrong when they attempt to impose the fraud of socialism on the American people.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell broke two days of silence about Trump’s insults, agreeing that Trump is not a racist but mildly admonishing him as well.
Watch McConnell weigh in on Trump’s comments:
The Senate Majority Leader ended two days of silence over the president’s tweets against four Democratic congresswomen. 0:29
The Kentucky Republican said that “from the president to the speaker to the freshman members of the House,” leaders should follow the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dictum of attacking ideas, not the people who espouse them.
“There’s been a consensus that political rhetoric has gotten way, way heated across the political spectrum,” McConnell told reporters.
Some want censure
On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted: “Those Tweets were NOT Racist. 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.”
Trump did not name the congresswomen in his initial tweets, but he singled out some of them in remarks at a White House event on Monday that was intended to highlight the U.S. economy, but instead focused on his widely derided rhetoric.
A final vote on the resolution condemning Trump’s remarks is expected on Tuesday evening, with Pelosi trying to manage demands from some House Democrats for a tougher resolution to censure him.
The censure can be invoked against members of Congress or other government officials. It is rarely used by Congress against a president and normally requires the person being censured to stand in the House for a public reprimand.
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, a member of the House judiciary committee, has 17 co-sponsors for his bill to censure Trump. “What he has done is reprehensible,” he told reporters.
Cohen said whatever the House does should not be “watered down” to try to lure House Republicans into voting for it.
Democrats and other critics in statements on Monday rejected Trump’s personal attacks on the four congresswomen as “racist,” “xenophobic” and aimed at further dividing Americans.
At a news conference on Monday, the four, known in Congress as “the squad,” said the attacks sought to distract from important policy issues.
A few congressional Republicans condemned Trump’s remarks, while others defended the president and attacked the women.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, referring again to the four lawmakers, “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said?”
In response, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “Hey Mr. President, remember when you bragged about sexually assaulting women, talking about feeling their breasts and genitals, because ‘when you’re a star they let you do it?'”
Trump is seeking re-election next year. His attacks on the congresswomen were seen by some as an attempt to divert attention from other issues, splinter the Democrats, who won control of Congress’s lower chamber in 2018, and appeal to a white nationalist faction in the Republican Party base.
Trump’s re-election campaign later on Tuesday was scheduled to launch a formal effort to woo female voters, a key voting bloc, particularly in the U.S. suburbs.
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