The House voted to condemn racist remarks made by President Trump over the weekend, in which he suggested four congresswomen of color, including Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, should “go back” and fix the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
While all Minnesota Democrats voted in favor of the resolution, Republican Reps. Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn, and Pete Stauber voted against it. None of them condemned the president’s remarks targeting their colleague.
Hagedorn has been silent on the president’s comments so far. Press representatives for the First District Republican did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Emmer, the Sixth District representative who serves as the National Republican Campaign Committee Chair, did not speak to the president’s racist language. Instead, his statement after the vote said in part, “This back-and-forth is about politics, nothing more, and I hope Congress will start to worry less about ‘tweets’ and more about actual solutions to improve the lives of Americans.”
Similarly, Stauber provided MinnPost with a statement, but did not condemn the racist language used by the president: “Just last week, four freshman colleagues of mine publicly accused Speaker Pelosi of racism. This week, these same Members are accusing the President of racism. I did not run for Congress to get distracted by the name-calling happening on both sides of the aisle,” Stauber wrote, saying he was elected to deal with issues like protecting Social Security and Medicare.
When asked about the president’s comments, the Republican Party of Minnesota did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Ken Martin, the state party chair for the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party, responded on Tuesday to Republican leaders’ silence: “While we disagree on many important issues facing our country, we should be able to agree that telling a refugee, United States citizen, and sitting congresswoman to return to her home country is grotesque, racist, and completely unacceptable.”
‘I know racism when I see it’
While several House Republicans during the week denounced the President’s remarks, only two did so by calling the remarks explicitly racist: Mike Turner of Ohio and Will Hurd of Texas, the only Black Republican House member and one of the four Republicans that voted in favor of the resolution.
The resolution read, in part:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger, and that those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations;
(2) is committed to keeping America open to those lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin; and
(3) strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should “go back” to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as “invaders,” and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.
House Republican leadership held a press conference Tuesday where they did not address the president’s remarks. Republicans’ chief complaints about the resolution, according to Judiciary Committee leader Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) was procedural: Collins took issue with the resolution not being provided earlier, so members could bring it to their constituents, and with the language used by Democrats throughout the debate.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the president’s remarks “racist,” Collins prompted a vote to strike the comments from the record, arguing they were out of order based on House rules dictate that members cannot call statements by the President “racist.” Nevertheless, House Democrats voted Collins’ motion down.
Stauber, Emmer, and Hagedorn voted with Collins to strike Pelosi’s statement that the president made “racist” remarks from the record.
Several House Democrats invoked Dr. Martin Luther King when speaking. But Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who actually marched with Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement, said, “I rise with a sense of righteous indignation to support this resolution. I know racism when I see it. I know racism when I feel it. And at the highest level of government there is no room for racism.”
Since the president made the initial comments, he has added a variety of racist and Islamophobic comments, falsely suggesting Omar supports and must condemn Al Qaeda, that all four congresswomen are anti-Semitic, and that they “hate our country.”
During a press conference Monday, the four representatives that Trump referenced in his initial Twitter remarks: Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayana Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), responded to the president’s comments.
“This country was founded on the radical idea that we are created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights. And yes we have a long way before we fully live up to those values,” said Omar. “It is for this reason precisely that we have to take action when the President is openly violating the oath he took to the constitution of the United States and the core values we aspire to.”
In addition to focusing on the president’s comments, the four members of Congress used their time to discuss health care and the impact of the Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. “I believe this is a pivotal moment for our country. Right now the president is carrying out mass deportation raids across this country in each one of our districts,” Omar said. “Right now the president is committing human rights abuses at the border, keeping children in cages, and having human beings drink out of toilets.”
“This is a president who has undermined the very values our country aspires to uphold,” Omar said. “Equality under the law, religious liberty, equal protection, and protection from persecution.”