Resolution vote forces House Republicans to pick a side on Trump’s racist attack

Several Republicans have publicly criticized president’s tirade, while others defended him

From left, Reps. Ayanna S. Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar  and Rashida Tlaib talk to reporters in the Capitol Visitor Center on Monday responding to President Donald Trump’s attacks on them. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is moving forward with a resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s repeated calls for four non-white members of Congress to “go back” to “the crime infested countries from which they came.” 

Pelosi announced late Monday night that the House will debate the resolution Tuesday afternoon and the vote will occur at 7 p.m.

A vote on the resolution — the language reads “a resolution condemning President Trump's racist comments directed at Members of Congress” — will put Republicans on the record about whether they condone Trump describing four congresswomen as unworthy to serve in office because of their non-European ancestry.

The resolution rankled Trump, who asked Tuesday morning in a tweet “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!” The president did not describe which remarks by the congresswomen he was referring to. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one the targets of Trump's vitriol, defended her criticisms of U.S. policies as part of an “enshrined tradition of dissent.” She cast Trump as hypocritical, citing his “grab ’em by the pussy” comment in 2005.

In the wake of the president’s tweetstorm that began over the weekend, Democrats called for a robust bipartisan rebuke. But that hasn't happened. Republicans who were critical of the president slowly emerged on Monday. 

Many Republican lawmakers have leveled partial critiques of Trump's words as “wrong” or “over the line.” Some have defended him.

A handful of Republicans criticized the president’s premise as racist.

Rep. Will Hurd of Texas said in an interview with CNN Monday morning that Trump’s remarks were “racist and xenophobic” as well as “unbecoming of the leader of the free world.”  

“He should be talking about things that unite, not divide us,” Hurd said.

Most Republicans shirked from criticizing the president's comments at all.

Trump had his defenders — Louisiana Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham offered to buy airfare for the four Democrats out of the country.

Others tried to explain them away. Maryland GOP Rep. Andy Harris said the Democrats were the ones making it about race.

“No, they’re not. They’re obviously not racist,” Harris told WBAL Radio. “But again, when anyone disagrees with someone now, you call them a racist and this is no exception.”

Asked why the president telling the members to “Go back to where you came from” wasn’t racist, Harris responded, “Look, ask the President what he meant by it but clearly it’s not a racist comment. He could have meant go back to the district they came from, to the neighborhood they came from.”

In a news conference Monday afternoon, the four lawmakers targeted by the president, Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ocasio-Cortez of New York, said the president’s words echoed white nationalist talking points, but also expressed a desire to move on.

“We’ll stay focused on our agenda and we won’t get caught slipping because all of this is a distraction. It’s a distraction from what’s most important,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

The cause of condemning the president’s diatribe has united the Democratic caucus, which has fractured in recent weeks.

The relationship between party leadership and the quartet of first-term lawmakers has been fraught following the defeat of an amendment to a border spending package meant to safeguard the human rights of migrants favored by the “squad.” Bowing to moderates in her caucus, Pelosi passed a bill directing billions of dollars to the agencies that patrol the border and detain migrants without those safeguards. 

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report. 

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