House Democrats voted to condemn President Trump’s tweets insulting four freshman congresswomen on Tuesday, declaring the comments a racist attack on women of color.
The resolution passed mostly along party lines in a 240-187 vote, with four Republicans and newly minted independent Justin Amash of Michigan voting with Democrats.
“This Congress must speak loudly and with one voice to condemn the president’s words and, more importantly, to condemn the sentiments behind them,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. “The United States should be a beacon of hope and refuge to those who need its protection, and it should welcome with open arms those who embody our values and ideals.”
The resolution specifically condemned comments Mr. Trump tweeted out over the weekend, directed at Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, suggesting they return to the dysfunctional governments “from which they came” rather than criticizing the U.S.
Democrats also highlighted other charged comments Mr. Trump has made in the past, including his remarks following the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his description of certain countries as “s—-hole countries.”
Most Republicans, however, rallied around the president and rejected arguments that his comments were racist, though some did criticize the rhetoric he used Monday.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, said the term “racist” is thrown around too loosely as a political weapon.
“This has got to stop, but it’s got to stop on both sides. This is fuel to the fire. It’s not a way to bring closure to the issue,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican, adding that the president’s comments were not appropriate.
The House voted on an anti-hate resolution this year in light of the controversy surrounding Ms. Omar, but the original resolution centering on her tweets using anti-Semitic tropes was watered down in the final resolution that passed into a general condemnation of many forms of prejudice.
Republican lawmakers argued that Democrats’ push to finalize a vote on the resolution was a political play and said Democrats didn’t reach out for Republican input.
“What happened to the 72-hour rule ensuring members have an opportunity to review legislation, seek feedback from constituents before voting on it? What happened to regular order?” asked Rep. Doug Collins, Georgia Republican.
Republicans also cried hypocrisy for singling out the president’s comments but not explicitly condemning specific remarks made by Ms. Omar and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.
“I think it’s very one-sided,” Mr. Cole said. “We’ve have people routinely using language — from concentration camps to what I would consider anti-Semitic remarks — and there haven’t been resolutions on those sorts of things. It’s only now.”
The vote was held after more than an hour of gridlock on the House floor when Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, made comments criticizing the president and explicitly called his statements racist as well as “divisive and dangerous.”
“Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets,” she said. “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.”
Her comments were found to be in violation of House rules, which prohibit personal criticism of the president and references to any racial statement he may have made. However, Democrats rallied behind her and voted against punishing the speaker by striking her words from the record or by barring her from debating on the floor.
Several other warnings were issued about this rule, which also extends to other members of Congress.
Before the House vote, the president called on Republican lawmakers to oppose the measure and to “not show weakness.” He tweeted that his comments “were NOT Racist.”
“The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!”
The president and his team pushed back aggressively against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and the three other liberal women as “the squad that hasn’t done squat.”
In a Cabinet meeting, Mr. Trump held aloft a photograph of Ms. Omar with some of her accompanying tweets, saying she has engaged in anti-American and anti-Semitic rhetoric. He said the lawmakers “should work for the good of our country.”
“I think it’s terrible when people speak so … horribly about our country,” the president said.
Asked where the lawmakers should go at his earlier suggestion to leave the U.S., Mr. Trump replied, “Wherever they want — or they can stay. It’s up to them. But they should love our country, and they should work for the good of our country. They shouldn’t hate our country.”
The lawmakers’ comments about the U.S. are “so horrible that I almost don’t want to read it, it’s so bad,” Mr. Trump added.
“It’s my opinion they hate our country. And that’s not good. It’s not acceptable,” the president said.
Senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also accused the media of a double standard in the president’s feud with the freshman Democrats. She said journalists are siding with the female lawmakers who accuse Mr. Trump of racism, but the media won’t stand up for Trump supporters who are attacked simply for wearing a hat that says “Make America Great Again.”
“Stop being so ga-ga and besotted with people who got here a couple of months ago, a squad that hasn’t done squat except be on magazine covers, except cause trouble,” Mrs. Conway told reporters at the White House. “It’s not about them. It’s about people who are attacking people for wearing a red hat. It’s about all of you rushing to judgment on those poor kids from Covington” — a reference to Kentucky high school students who were vilified as racist for smirking while wearing MAGA hats when a drum-banging American Indian confronted them at the Lincoln Memorial.
The attacks on Supreme Court Justice Brett M. “Kavanaugh, Covington — we’re sick to the rush to judgment on everything,” Mrs. Conway said. “Two years of a rush to judgment of nonsense on the special counsel.”
Mrs. Conway said of that the four Democrats in “The Squad” “are the only ones to vote against any form of humanitarian aid at the border.
“They’ve lost moral authority to scream and preen about the border. They just represent a very dark element in this country that seems to not respect the military, not respect veterans, not vote for humanitarian aid,” she said.
She said the president’s agenda has accomplished much “for communities of color.”
“African American unemployment is at an all-time low. Same for Hispanics,” Mrs. Conway said. “This matters to people. There are fewer people of color languishing in prison now because of this president’s signing into law the First Step and Second Chance. There are more people in housing, in getting skills education. It’s why we’re here.”