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House censures GOP’s Gosar over cartoon showing him stab AOC

Republican congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona in an elevator wearing a U.S. flag mask
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) takes an elevator on Capitol Hill as the House prepared to vote on a resolution to censure him for tweeting an animated video that depicted him striking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) with a sword.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

The tense relationship between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy hit another low Wednesday as they sparred over Democrats’ censure of a Republican member who shared a violent animated video of himself killing a Democratic colleague.

Pelosi (D-San Francisco) questioned McCarthy’s leadership, while McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) all but assured Pelosi that House Republicans would retaliate by stripping Democrats of committee assignments when they regain control of the chamber, a reality that could come as soon as January 2023 after next November’s midterm election.

The latest clash played out as Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) became the first member to be censured by the House in more than 10 years and the second Republican to be stripped of committee assignments this year.

The vote was 223 to 207.

Congressman Paul Gosar walks in a hallway surrounded by reporters and cameras
Rep. Paul Gosar leaves his office ahead of the House vote to censure him.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
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House Republican leaders recommended their members vote no on the resolution to censure Gosar.

Democrats unanimously supported censure along with two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) voted present.

The censure comes 10 days after the Arizona Republican posted, and later deleted, a cartoon video with his face superimposed on a character who kills someone with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face and wields swords against President Biden.

A censure is a public rebuke of a member’s misconduct. The action is more severe than a reprimand but not as serious as expulsion. A censure resolution is approved by a majority vote and requires the censured member to stand in the well of the House as the speaker or the presiding officer of the chamber reads the resolution aloud.

Gosar was joined in the well Wednesday by more than a dozen of his Republican colleagues as Pelosi read aloud the text of the censure resolution.

He was removed from two panels: the Oversight and Reform Committee, on which he served with Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and the Natural Resources Committee.

But Wednesday’s vote was not just about the fate of Gosar and his committee assignments. It was also about the future of Congress and whether it will become common for the majority party to remove controversial members of the minority party from committees.

The family of Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar is torn apart by his extremist views

“You have a right to speak, and so do we have a right to react to what you are saying when you are threatening the lives of members of Congress and the president of the United States,” Pelosi said on the House floor before the vote. “It is sad that this entire House must take this step because of the refusal of the leadership of the other party.”

In his own floor remarks, McCarthy said the “Pelosi precedent” means that all Democrats who have been accused of inciting violence or antisemitism in recent years, such as Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), will have to survive a vote to keep their committee assignments in the future.

Each party traditionally controls their members’ committee assignments. But Republicans have accused Democrats of hypocrisy for moving to punish Republican members while refusing to take similar action against members of their own caucus.

The Republican leader argued that Pelosi, who has not said publicly whether this will be her last term in Congress, is “burning down the House on her way out the door” and applying a double standard after leading a chamber that’s become “weaker” and “more partisan” since she became speaker again in 2019.

Nancy Pelosi walks in the Capitol with a group of aides around her
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) leaves the chamber after condemning the actions of Rep. Paul Gosar.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

He said the resolution to censure Gosar and remove him from committees is not about the video.

“It’s about control,” McCarthy said of the resolution to censure Gosar. “That’s the one and only thing Democrats are interested in — not condemning violence, not protecting the institution, not decorum or decency. Just control.”

Pelosi said the resolution is about workplace harassment, violence against women and signaling to Americans across the country that violent rhetoric is not OK and should have consequences, particularly in the wake of the insurrection at the Capitol this year.

During floor debate ahead of a procedural vote on the censure resolution, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) accused Democrats of trampling House norms and rushing to rebuke a Republican.

“It sets a dangerous and disturbing precedent that will likely change the character of the House in the years to come — and not for the better,” warned Cole, who conceded that Gosar’s post was “provocative” and “inappropriate.” “And the majority is doing so solely to play politics with this moment and to score a cheap political point at the expense of a member of the minority.”

Republicans noted that Pelosi also stripped Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments and rejected two of McCarthy’s picks to serve on a committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

House Democrats — and 11 Republicans — voted to remove Greene from her committee assignments in February over racist rhetoric and support of violence against Democrats.

In both cases, McCarthy was criticized for failing to take a firm stance against misconduct by one of his members. Hoping to become speaker in 2023 if Republicans win the House, McCarthy has long struggled to win the confidence of the party’s right flank and has often refrained from actions that might further anger those members.

Cole, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, argued that Gosar deserves credit for removing the clip after McCarthy called the congressman to convey “that this video was inappropriate,” releasing a public statement and telling his colleagues at a conference meeting Tuesday morning that he doesn’t condone or endorse violence.

Cole said Democrats should have let McCarthy and House Republicans settle this issue themselves or refer Gosar to the Ethics Committee, a bipartisan panel that would’ve reviewed the incident and given Gosar an opportunity to state his case before the committee made a recommendation.

More than two dozen Democrats signed a letter to McCarthy last week asking the GOP leader to publicly request an Ethics Committee investigation into Gosar’s conduct. A spokesperson for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who spearheaded the letter, said she had not heard back from McCarthy as of late Tuesday night.

Ocasio-Cortez has spent more than $73,000 this year on security services through September, according to campaign filings.

“This vote is not as complex as perhaps the Republican leader would like to make folks believe,” she said Wednesday. “If you believe that this behavior is acceptable, go ahead, vote ‘no.’ But if you believe that this behavior should not be accepted, then vote ‘yes.’ It’s really that simple.”

A day after Gosar published the clip online, he posted a meme that said: “It’s a cartoon. Relax.”

Gosar said he explained the video to his Republican colleagues Tuesday morning but did not apologize. He told the “Stew Peters Show” that the clip was an attempt to reach younger voters with a message on illegal immigration.

The House last censured a member, former Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), on Dec. 2, 2010, for financial misdeeds following an ethics investigation.


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