The House passed a GOP-led resolution on Tuesday to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib over comments critical of Israel and in support of Palestinians amid Israel’s war against Hamas.
The move amounts to a rare and significant rebuke of the Michigan Democrat, who is the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress. The vote was 234 to 188 with four Republicans voting against and 22 Democrats voting in support of the censure resolution.
The resolution, which was introduced by Georgia GOP Rep. Rich McCormick, advanced earlier in the day after a Democratic-led effort to block the measure failed.
Tlaib has defended herself against the censure attempts, arguing that they are an effort to silence her and saying that her “colleagues have resorted to distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies.”
Following the vote to advance the censure resolution, Tlaib delivered an emotional speech on the House floor and argued that her criticism of the Israeli government should not be conflated with antisemitism.
“It is important to separate people and governments. No government is beyond criticism. The idea that criticizing the government of Israel is antisemitic sets a very dangerous precedent, and it’s been used to silence diverse voices speaking up for human rights across our nation,” she said.
She grew emotional and had trouble speaking after she said, “I can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian people are not disposable.”
“We are human beings just like anyone else,” she said after a long pause, during which Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota stood up to comfort her and put her hands on Tlaib’s shoulder as the congresswoman braced herself against the podium.
After the House voted to block a resolution from GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to censure Tlaib last week, Greene put forward a new version of the resolution that drops a reference to a pro-Palestinian protest at the Capitol as an “insurrection,” which had made some Republicans uncomfortable. But McCormick’s resolution had been expected to have more support from Republicans because the language is narrower and more tailored to recent events.
A censure resolution is one of the most severe forms of punishment in the House, which has historically been saved for the most egregious offenses such as a criminal conviction. A censure does not remove a member from the House and carries no explicit penalties beyond a public admonition.
Most recently, the House voted to censure Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California in June, a key lawmaker in the Democrats’ congressional investigations into former President Donald Trump.
In addition to the Republican criticism directed at Tlaib, a number of Democrats have been critical of the congresswoman over her defense of the pro-Palestinian chant “from the river to the sea.”
The Anti-Defamation League describes the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” as “an antisemitic slogan” and “rallying cry (that) has long been used by anti-Israel voices, including supporters of terrorist organizations such as Hamas.”
Tlaib has defended the phrase, writing on X, “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate. My work and advocacy is always centered in justice and dignity for all people no matter faith or ethnicity.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said, “Of course I do,” when asked by CNN on Monday if he has concerns over Tlaib’s use of the chant.
Both censure resolutions reference the chant. McCormick’s resolution states that it is “widely recognized as a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel.”
Tlaib posted a video to X last week that features clips of protestors chanting “from the river to the sea,” as well as other chants such as “Free Palestine.”
At the end of the video, text displays on the screen saying, “Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people. The American people won’t forget,” and calling for Biden to support a ceasefire.
McCormick said on X Tuesday evening that he was temporarily closing his district office in Cumming, Georgia, “due to serious threats of violence” against his staff, though it was not clear from the post what the threats were related to. The congressman told CNN later Tuesday that “it just might be bad timing” and unrelated to the censure efforts.
Julie Singleton, communications director for McCormick, said in a statement that “all of Congressman McCormick’s staff are safe at this time. The (Capitol Police) are working with local police to investigate the threat. We are unable to share any of the details about the threat or its circumstances at this time.”
The two resolutions also both reference comments made by Tlaib in the aftermath of an explosion at a hospital in Gaza last month.
A social media post by Tlaib on October 17 reflected the early Hamas-sourced reports out of Gaza. But those reports were contradicted by American intelligence, which subsequently concluded that the Israel Defense Forces were not responsible for the explosion.
On October 25, Tlaib replied to her earlier post on X, saying, “Media outlets and third-party analysts have raised doubts about claims and evidence offered by both Israel and the Gaza Ministry of Health, and I agree with the United Nations that an independent investigation is necessary.”
The congresswoman included a link to a longer statement in which she went on to say, “I cannot uncritically accept Israel’s denials of responsibility as fact,” and said, “Both the Israeli and United States governments have long, documented histories of misleading the public about wars and war crimes.”
McCormick’s resolution states that Tlaib “continued to knowingly spread the false narrative that Israel intentionally bombed” the hospital.
Greene’s resolution accuses Tlaib of “lying about Israel’s responsibility for the attack.”
In a statement on the two censure resolutions, Tlaib said, “It’s a shame my colleagues are more focused on silencing me than they are on saving lives, as the death toll in Gaza surpasses 10,000. Many of them have shown me that Palestinian lives simply do not matter to them, but I still do not police their rhetoric or actions.”
“Rather than acknowledge the voice and perspective of the only Palestinian American in Congress, my colleagues have resorted to distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies,” Tlaib continued. “I have repeatedly denounced the horrific targeting and killing of civilians by Hamas and the Israeli government, and have mourned the Israeli and Palestinian lives lost.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Sam Fossum and Shania Shelton contributed.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.
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