The House voted Tuesday mainly along party lines to publicly rebuke President Donald Trump for tweets and remarks aimed at a group of minority women Democrats, but the legislative reprimand dissolved into hours of parliamentary disarray on the floor, as for the first time in 35 years, a Speaker of the House ran afoul of the House rules during debate on the Trump resolution.
Four Republicans broke ranks with the President and voted for the resolution to condemn the President's remarks: Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), plus one Independent, former GOP Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI).
"Every single Member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the President's racist tweets," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, triggering hours of delay, as the GOP demanded that her words be 'taken down' and expunged from the Congressional Record.
When challenged by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) - who suggested gracefully that the Speaker re-frame her comments to avoid running afoul of rules which severely limit what can be said about a President on the House floor - Pelosi said her remarks had been cleared by the Parliamentarian.
But that did not turn out to be the case, as the chair ruled that the Speaker's words were out of order - though the House later overturned that ruling in a party line vote.
"I was compelled to demand that the House enforce the rules against Speaker Pelosi," Collins said, "for her deliberate attack on the President."
The House precedents are very clear that the word 'racist' - or anything which suggests that a President has engaged in 'racist' behavior - is not allowed in debate.
.@SpeakerPelosi: "Every single member of this institution...should join us in condemning the president's racist tweets. 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." pic.twitter.com/nsskh7TuCS— CSPAN (@cspan) July 16, 2019
It was the first time in 35 years - since Speaker Tip O'Neill had his words 'taken down' during a 1984 House floor dispute with future Speaker Rep. Newt Gingrich R-GA - that a Speaker had been so sanctioned.
But this time, Democrats refused to strike the Speaker's words from the Record, and then voted to go against a long standing precedent by allowing the Speaker to re-join the debate.
Normally, if a member is sanctioned - and has their words taken down - that person is not allowed to speak for the rest of the day.
The day also included a highly unusual scene, after the Parliamentarian determined that Pelosi had violated House rules by referring to the President's 'racist tweets,' as Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) refused to publicly admonish the Speaker, dropping the gavel and leaving the Speaker's chair.
"I abandon the Chair," Cleaver said, leaving Congressional veterans grasping for any historic parallel.
JUST IN: Rep. Cleaver, who had been presiding over the House chamber, declares "I abandon the chair” and drops gavel on the dais as House members await ruling on if Speaker Pelosi's comments on the president's tweets will be taken down. pic.twitter.com/qB7TIJkhfO— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 16, 2019
If the President was worried by the House vote, he didn't show it, using a session with reporters at the White House to again criticize four new Democratic women, who have repeatedly attacked his actions and policy choices.
“It’s my opinion they hate our country. And that’s not good. It’s not acceptable,” Mr. Trump said.
Republicans denounced the resolution as a political ploy.
“If Democrats were serious about changing the rhetoric in Washington, this resolution would address at least a few of the egregious remarks made by Members in their own caucus,” said Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA).