Action on a House resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s controversial tweets ground to a halt on Tuesday after Republicans objected to Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the posts “racist” during a floor speech.
Pelosi’s words were ruled out of order under House rules — a president may not be called racist — but Democrats prepared to use their majority status to override GOP objections to change the rules.
Story Continued Below
The hour-plus long drama over Pelosi’s comments showed just how tense the mood is in the House as the two sides battled over Trump and his racist tweets from this weekend targeting four progressive Democratic freshman.
No speaker has had their words “taken down,” as it is referred to, in 35 years, and even challenging a speaker’s comments is considered a serious breach of etiquette. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, didn’t want to be part of the fight, and decided to “abandon the chair,” a shocking move that left the speaker’s chair empty for a moment.
After Cleaver left the chair, Democrats scrambled to find someone to take his place. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, several of whom were on the floor for the debate, refused, not wanting be the one to strike the speaker’s comments. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a former CBC chairman stepped in for a moment, followed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who was forced to announced that Pelosi’s comments were “out of order.”
Republicans felt that Pelosi clearly violated House rules and objected to the California Democrat’s remarks on Trump.
“Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets,” Pelosi said. “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.”
Under House rules and parliamentary precedent, lawmakers may not refer to the president having made “a bigoted or racist statement.” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) asked Pelosi to “rephrase” her statement.
Pelosi refused, saying she had “cleared them with the parliamentarian” before she made them. The parliamentarian oversees issues of precedent and procedure on the floor.
A lengthy delay followed Collins’ request, including consultations between leadership on both sides of the aisle, the parliamentarian, and various members involved in the debate. That eventually led to Hoyer’s announcement and a likely subsequent party line vote.