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House formally rebukes Trump's 'racist' remarks

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-07-17 23:01

US Reps Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib hold a news conference after Democrats in the US Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on the four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 15, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Votes 240-187, mostly along party lines, to condemn ‘go back’ tweets to ‘squad’

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution condemning President Donald Trump's "racist" comments in which he told four minority congresswomen to "go back" and fix the "crime infested places" they "originally came from".

The resolution said the House "strongly condemns President Donald Trump's racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color".

The nonbinding resolution was approved by a vote of 240-187 in the Democrat-controlled chamber. The measure referred to the Republican president's comments as "racist" twice but did not call him prejudiced.

Four Republican representatives — Susan Brooks of Indiana, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd of Texas and Fred Upton of Michigan — along with independent Justin Amash of Michigan joined Democrats in voting for the resolution.

The proceedings were dramatically delayed Tuesday afternoon after Republicans said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's opening remarks about Trump's comments violated House decorum rules, which call for lawmakers to avoid impugning the motives of their colleagues or the president.

"There's no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong, unified condemnation," Pelosi had said. "Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president's racist tweets."

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia formally objected to the remarks.

After a two-hour lull, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ruled that the speaker had violated the decorum rules. But an effort by Republicans to have her words stricken from the record failed along party lines.

Many Democrats wanted a stronger resolution of censure.

Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey and sponsor of the resolution, however, said: "Let's focus on these comments that the vast majority of Americans recognize to be divisive and racist, that the vast majority of my Republican colleagues in their hearts recognize to be divisive and racist."

Trump ignited a firestorm on Sunday when he tweeted that progressive Democratic congresswomen — three of whom were born in the US – should go back to their countries and not tell him how to govern America.

"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came …" he tweeted.

While the president did not mention anyone by name in his tweets, the remarks were interpreted as referring to four representatives nicknamed the "squad" — Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Tlaib, a Palestinian American, was born in Michigan; Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent and was born in New York; Pressley, an African American, was born in Cincinnati; and Omar, a Somali refugee, moved to the United States at age 12.

High-profile members of the GOP were slow to openly criticize the president's remarks. Some, such as senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, along with former senator Jeff Flake and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said the comments were "shameful" and "racist".

Others defended Trump. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California answered "no" when asked if the president's remarks were racist. He added that he would tell members to oppose the resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also defended Trump, saying, "The president is not a racist."

Trump urged Republicans to vote against the resolution on Tuesday, branding it a "Democrat con game".

In a closed-door meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday, Pelosi called the congresswomen "our sisters".

"The fact is, as offended as we are — and we are offended by what he said about our sisters — he says that about people every day, and they feel as hurt as we do about somebody in our family having this offense against them," Pelosi said.

"This is, I hope, one where we will get Republican support," she said. "If they can't support condemning the words of the president, well, that's a message in and of itself."

On Tuesday morning, Trump fought back, tweeting that the freshman representatives "have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate". He then asked why the House wasn't "voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said?"

Later that afternoon, he doubled down on his comments, saying in part "Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don't have a Racist bone in my body!"

The congresswomen held a joint news conference on Monday to denounce Trump's comments. Omar said Trump was promoting "the agenda of white nationalists".

Reuters contributed to this story.

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