WASHINGTON – The House Tuesday condemned President Donald Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred” in response to the president’s tweets that progressive congresswomen should “go back” to the countries they originally came from.
The 240-187 vote came despite near-unanimous opposition by Republicans, many of whom had been silent on the issue and who characterized Tuesday’s resolution as a partisan attack.
Democrats have been blasting Trump’s comments as racist since he tweeted them out Sunday, noting that the four targets of his tweets were all women of color, three of whom were born in the U.S. and one of whom came from Somalia as a child refugee.
“When President Trump attacks people of color to advance his racist, fascist agenda, we have a duty to call it what it is. The president is trying to destroy our country’s diversity,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, in a Monday tweet that introduced a 3-minute video statement.
Every Democrat in the House voted for the resolution, along with an independent and four Republicans. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, did not vote Monday. The three remaining Arizona Republicans voted against the resolution, but did not respond to requests for comment on their votes Tuesday.
The battle began Sunday when Trump complained in a tweet about “progressive Democrat congresswomen who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” but who were criticizing the United States.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came,” he tweeted.
He was quickly criticized, but instead of backing down, Trump told reporters Monday that, “As far as I’m concerned if you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave.”
Trump defended his tweets again Tuesday before the House vote.
“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,” he tweeted.
Trump did not specifically name the women, but in comments Monday and Tuesday made clear that he was referring to freshman Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
-Cronkite News video by Julian Paras
The four, informally known as “the squad,” criticized the president’s comments at a news conference Monday, with Ocasio-Cortez accusing the president of resorting to personal attacks on the four lawmakers because “he does not know how to defend his policies.”
“You’re right, Mr. President,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday in response to the president, “you don’t have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest.”
But even Republicans who disagreed with the president questioned the tone of the resolution. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, called the president’s tweets “wildly inappropriate” on Monday, but he opposed the resolution Tuesday because of “the partisan nature in which it was brought forward.”
“Have we gotten so broken as a Congress that a simple disagreement results in us labeling one another racist idiots?” Gonzalez said on the House floor.
He noted that some Democrats have called migrant detention centers “concentration camps” and have failed to rebuke people who have called Border Patrol and immigration officers “Nazis.”
“Where is the condemnation of these?” Gonzalez asked. “When are we going to push back on that?”
The language briefly halted debate on the resolution after Republicans complained that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reference to Trump’s “racist tweets” violated House decorum and should be stricken from the record. After a nearly two-hour delay, the House rejected the GOP complaint and moved to vote on the resolution.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Tucson, said before the vote that the House needed to condemn the president’s words.
“He shouldn’t be attacking members of Congress who are simply doing their job asking for oversight and accountability and transparency,” Kirkpatrick said.
“He’s decided to attack my colleagues who are wonderful young women of color that make our caucus very, very diverse, and he’s just doing it to distract from the job he’s not doing as president,” she said.
– Cronkite News reporter Julian Paras contributed to this report.