The House ruled Tuesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s criticism of President Trump violates the chamber’s rules.
Members, though, voted to keep her words in the official record despite GOP efforts to strike them in a 232-190 vote.
They also allowed Mrs. Pelosi to be able to continue debating on the House floor, in a 231-190 vote.
Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer took over the gavel to make the announcement about Mrs. Pelosi having violated the rules.
“The words used by the gentlewoman from California contained an accusation of racist behavior on the part of the president,” Mr. Hoyer said. “The words should not be used in debate.”
The top-ranking House Democrat called the president’s comments about four freshman congresswomen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — “divisive and dangerous” to the country.
“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.”
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said Mrs. Pelosi could have just taken back her words and apologized.
“What we just saw was a very sad day in this House — probably a historic day, so the very person who is supposed to uphold the rules broke the rules of the House,” the California Republican told reporters.
“Are they going to treat her different? You couldn’t even find a Democrat to stay in the chair to read what the parliamentarian decision is,” he added. “Decorum matters. The rules matter.”
Mr. Hoyer spoke out in defense of the speaker following the vote.
“I strongly support Speaker Pelosi and her words that President Trump’s tweets demeaning Members of Congress of color were racist, words I echoed in my own remarks a short while beforehand,” he said in a statement. “The Democratic Majority will not allow the Speaker of the House or any Member to be silenced when it comes to calling out dangerous and inappropriate racist language by the President or any official holding a high office of trust on behalf of the American people.”
Mrs. Pelosi told reporters after the vote that she stood by her statement.
“I’m proud of the attention that is being called to it because what the president said was completely inappropriate against our colleagues, but not just against them, but against so many people in our country to say, ‘Go back where you came from,’ ” the California Democrat said.
Rep. Doug Collins, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, first called for Mrs. Pelosi’s comments to be taken down, calling them “unparliamentary.”
Mrs. Pelosi argued she had cleared her remarks with the parliamentarian before speaking.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said although the speaker’s words violated the House rules, Democrats will likely keep them in the official record.
“Regardless of what the rules say, it appears political statements will rule the day,” the North Carolina Republican told reporters.
He called on the House lawmakers to maintain civil discord, as the chamber has for more than two centuries.
“We would be well served as an institution to not become like some of our allies’ parliament debate — have a more civil discord,” he added.
The rules, which trace back to Thomas Jefferson’s writings, allow members to criticize the government or the president on the House floor in an official capacity, but they are prohibited from using language that is “personally offensive” to the president. For example, lawmakers cannot call the president a liar or hypocrite.
On the matter of racial rhetoric, Jefferson’s Manual explicitly states that any reference to “racial or other discrimination on the Part of the President” is not allowed.
“As such, remarks may not refer to the President as a racist, having made ‘racial slurs’ or ‘racial epithets’ ” the manual reads.
According to the Congressional Research Service, Mrs. Pelosi could be punished by being barred from speaking on the floor for the rest of the day.
Several other warnings about this rule, which also extends to other members of Congress, had to be issued throughout the debate.
However, earlier Tuesday, Mr. Hoyer argued that the resolution itself wouldn’t cross any lines because the criticism was aimed at tweets, not the president.
“We’re condemning the language that was used, not the president himself,” he said.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who was serving as chairman, stepped down out of frustration.
“Unfairness is not enough because we want to just fight,” the Missouri Democrat said before dropping the gavel.
Mr. Cleaver continued to express his frustration with reporters after the vote, saying he was trying to be fair and not escalate complaints from either side of the aisle.
• Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.