December 8, 2023

Washington — Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan appears headed for censure by the House after a number of Republicans pulled their opposition to a formal reprimand following her latest controversial comments on Israel. 

The House voted Tuesday to advance the first of two resolutions to formally punish the Michigan Democrat for a laundry list of remarks she’s made about Israel. The vote on a motion to table, or kill, the resolution was 213 opposed to 208 in favor. Six Republicans joined all but one Democrat in voting to block the measure.

The House is also set to vote on whether to move forward with a separate resolution introduced by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene later Tuesday. 

An earlier effort led by Greene to censure Tlaib failed last week after nearly two dozen Republicans, including McCormick, joined Democrats in voting to table the measure.

But Tlaib, the House’s only Palestinian American, set off another round of backlash, including among some Democrats, when she defended the use of the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Washington on Oct. 20, 2023.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Washington on Oct. 20, 2023.

Jose Luis Magana / AP

The phrase is seen by many Jewish people as calling for the destruction of Israel. Tlaib said the phrase is “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.” Tlaib also accused President Biden of supporting “the genocide of the Palestinian people” through his backing of Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

In a statement Monday night, Tlaib accused her colleagues of “distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies.” 

Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday he “strenuously disagrees” with Tlaib’s statement. 

“I think it’s offensive and I think she understands that from her conversations with her colleagues,” he told reporters. 

California Rep. Ted Lieu, the vice chair of the caucus, also condemned Tlaib, saying Hamas uses the slogan to call for the killing of all Jews. 

“So if someone repeats that phrase in America, it is highly inflammatory,” Lieu said. “I have a district that has one of the highest populations of Jewish people outside the state of Israel, and they are scared. They’re scared of rising antisemitism. When they see phrases like that, they feel scared. 

“And we have the right to free speech in America,” he said. “People can repeat that phrase every hour on the hour if they want to. Part of free speech is people also have the right to criticize and condemn people who use that phrase. And I just want people to understand that when you use this phrase in the context of the brutal Hamas invasion, it scares Jewish Americans. And so I just asked people to understand what they are doing when they use that phrase.” 

But Aguilar said Democratic leadership has encouraged their members to vote in favor of tabling the resolutions, which would effectively kill them, and oppose the censure resolutions if they advance to a vote. 

“This isn’t productive right now,” Aguilar said of the censure efforts. “We’re 10 days from a government shutdown.” 

McCormick said he introduced a resolution separate from Greene’s because he opposed the wording of her previous measure that accused Tlaib of “leading an insurrection” at a House office building.

“It’s very important that the wording is correct,” he said last week, adding that it would be supported by several Republicans who voted to table Greene’s previous measure.

Greene’s latest measure does not include the insurrection language.

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