McCormick, not Greene, takes lead as House censures Tlaib

Legislation by U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Suwanee, moved forward Tuesday to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who is accused of making antisemitic statements during a pro-Palestine protest.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Legislation by U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Suwanee, moved forward Tuesday to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who is accused of making antisemitic statements during a pro-Palestine protest.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Tuesday to approve Rep. Rich McCormick’s resolution reprimanding Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is accused of making antisemitic remarks while participating in pro-Palestinian protests.

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene withdrew her similar resolution shortly before a final vote on McCormick’s bill. Her version failed to gain traction.

Twenty-two Democrats voted with the majority of Republicans in favor of reprimanding Tlaib for her rhetoric about the Israel-Hamas war, which they deemed antisemitic. Four Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure, largely due to concerns about limiting free speech.

Georgia’s delegation split strictly along party lines with all nine Republicans voting in favor of the censure and the five Democrats against it.

During debate on the bill, McCormick accused Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and the only Palestinian American in Congress, of calling for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of Jewish people.

If this is not worthy of censure, what is?” said McCormick, a Suwanee Republican. “When you can call for the annihilation of a country and its people, if that’s not worthy of a censure, what is?”

Tlaib’s detractors said she made incendiary remarks during an Oct. 18 pro-Palestine protest reacting to Israel’s incursion in the Gaza Strip, which itself was a response to Hamas’ attack on Israel earlier in the month. Since then, Tlaib has also made controversial comments about Israel and its leaders and defended using a phrase that is considered antisemitic.

Although some Democrats supported McCormick’s censure resolution, the vast majority said the effort infringed on Tlaib’s First Amendment rights. Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who is Jewish, said that he was defending Tlaib’s right to speak even if he disagrees with what she said.

“At this moment when democracy is under siege all over the world, America must stand tall for the Constitution of the United States,” Raskin said. “And this resolution is about one thing and one thing only, the punishment of speech.”

Tlaib, speaking in her own defense on the House floor, was overcome with emotion. She said her only goal was to highlight the plight of Palestinians who have faced an oppressive Israeli government and not to spread hate messages.

“Speaking up to save lives, no matter faith, no matter ethnicity, should not be controversial in this chamber,” she said. “The cries of the Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me.”

McCormick’s resolution did not require Tlaib to stand in the front of the House chamber while the rebuke is read aloud, a concession that helped increase support for his bill.

Greene’s resolution, introduced last week, described Tlaib’s participation in the protest at a House office building as an attempted insurrection. While more than 300 people were arrested during the protest after refusing to comply with officers’ orders, there were no serious injuries and no protesters entered the Capitol itself.

McCormick and 22 other Republicans voted with Democrats to table Greene’s legislation, saying the language she used was inaccurate and unnecessary.

His staff said he approached Greene after the vote and offered to work with her on revisions, but she declined. The Rome Republican then trashed the 23 GOP defectors as “pathetic” and “feckless” to her huge social media audience.

McCormick spent the days that followed crafting his version of the censure resolution and working with House GOP leaders to position the legislation for a successful vote, aides said.

Greene submitted a revised censure resolution Monday that replaced the word “insurrection” with “illegal occupation.” But in the end, it was McCormick’s competing legislation that moved ahead.

House Republican leaders may also have been more inclined to help McCormick achieve a high-profile legislative win. His suburban Atlanta district is likely to be redrawn in the coming weeks as part of a court-ordered redistricting session in the Georgia General Assembly, making it more competitive in a general election.

Censures, which are formal condemnations of members of Congress, are rare. Prior to Tlaib, only 25 members had been censured in the history of the House.

Most recently, Republicans voted in June to censure California Democrat Adam Schiff over comments he made about former President Donald Trump during the first impeachment investigation. In 2021, Republican Paul Gosar of Arizona was censured and removed from committees after sharing content on social media that Democrats deemed violent and racist.