House Democrats rejected a Republican resolution Tuesday to censure Rep. Maxine Waters as outrage escalated on the right over her incendiary comments and the Democratic leadership’s decision to defend her.
The House voted 216-210 along party lines to table the resolution introduced by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that cited the California Democrat’s demand for a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis and the judge’s subsequent admonishment.
“Speaker Pelosi, and every other House Democrat, had the opportunity to condemn the violent rhetoric of our colleague Representative Waters,” Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, tweeted after the vote. “Instead, they condoned it. And the House and our justice system are worse off because of it.”
The resolution came amid a backlash mounting over Ms. Waters’ call on Saturday for protesters in Minnesota to “get more confrontational” unless Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty of murder in the May 25 death of George Floyd.
“Every single House Democrat just voted to stand with Maxine Waters,” tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican. “They made it clear: Democrats are fine with Democrat politicians inciting violence and chaos.”
Chauvin, 45, was found guilty Tuesday on all three counts — unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — after a 14-day trial in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis.
Mr. Scalise called on Ms. Waters to apologize and accused House Democrats of “hypocrisy” for their tight-lipped response to her comments “inciting violence” in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on the seventh straight night of protests. Protesters were raging against the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer.
“A lot of people have talked about the comments that other people have made and spoken out against it,” Mr. Scalise said. “Right now, I haven’t heard any Democrats speaking out against what Maxine has said, and it’s time for Democrats to speak out when they see it on both sides. They only want to speak out on one side of the aisle, not on both, and that hypocrisy I think is starting to shine through.”
One House Democrat who did weigh in: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat, who blasted Mr. McCarthy for having the “nerve to say something about anyone, when he supported the violent insurrection,” referring to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
He then described three House Republicans as a “mess.”
“Lauren Boebert is a mess. Matt Gaetz is a mess. Marjorie Taylor Greene is a mess. Clean up your mess, Kevin, sit this one out,” Mr. Jeffries said.
The difference, said Republicans, is that the House has moved to hold all three of those lawmakers accountable for their alleged misconduct, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has defended Ms. Waters.
Ms. Boebert is under a House ethics investigation for allegedly encouraging rioters, which she denies. Ms. Greene was stripped of all committee assignments for her 2018 posts about the conspiracy theories of QAnon, for which she has apologized. Mr. Gaetz is facing federal and House ethics probes for alleged sexual misconduct, which he denies.
Asked if Ms. Waters needs to apologize, Ms. Pelosi told reporters, “No, she doesn’t,” adding that she was “absolutely not worried” about whether the rhetoric incited violence.
Rep. Lisa McClain, Michigan Republican, decried what she described as a Democratic double-standard on Ms. Waters.
“If this were reversed, if this was said by a Republican, you know, Madame Speaker, that the majority in this chamber would move to strip that representative from their committees and possibly move to expel them from Congress,” Ms. McClain said on the House floor.
She cited the House vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for “incitement of violence” over his speech immediately before the Capitol riot.
“The Democrats have set a standard, and all I’m asking is, Madame Speaker, don’t you think we both should play by the same rules?” Ms. McClain asked on Fox News.
Other efforts to punish Ms. Waters are underway. Both Ms. Boebert and the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed House ethics complaints Tuesday against the long-serving congresswoman, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee.
“Her behavior does not ‘reflect creditably on the House,’ nor does it follow ‘the spirit and the letter of the Rules of the House,’” Ms. Boebert said in a statement. “Remarks inciting violence, bullying an independent judiciary, and encouraging rioters to break local laws discredit the House and are a stain on this body.”
Republicans made it clear that they will leverage the vote against censuring Ms. Waters, accusing Democrats of shrugging off violent rhetoric.
“Every single House Democrat just voted to stand with Maxine Waters,” Mr. Scalise tweeted. “They made it clear: Democrats are fine with Democrat politicians inciting violence and chaos.”
The issue is personal for Mr. Scalise: He and three others were shot in 2017 before the annual Congressional Baseball Game by a gunman described as a left-wing extremist who was targeting Republicans.
“I was shot because of this kind of dangerous rhetoric,” he said on Fox News’ “Hannity.”
Ms. Waters has insisted that she is “non-violent” and that she sought to support the “young who are struggling” in her role as “auntie Maxine” by appearing at the protest.
“And so I wanted to be there kind of as Auntie Maxine, to show them that not only do I love them and I support them, but they can count on me to be there with them at this terrible time in all of our lives,” Ms. Waters told MSNBC.
That wasn’t enough for Mr. Scalise. “I’d like to see Maxine Waters apologize for the inflammatory comments that she’s made inciting violence,” he said. “It’s a powder keg down there.”
He noted that Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill admonished Ms. Waters and warned that her comments could serve as the basis of an appeal in the Chauvin case.