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House Debates Censure Resolution Against Paul Gosar. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 15:00   ET



REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): In the 40-plus years that I have served here, there has never been a case like this, never.

This is not about control, as the majority leader would represent. It is about decency, democracy, and security, and the rule of law.

We have seen, Madam Speaker, over and over again in our politics that words matter and actions matter even more. Vitriol, the glorification and promotion of violence, hate speech and the failure to condemn all of those when they occur have created an atmosphere in our country which, sadly, has now and too frequently been visited on this floor.

That is not conducive to the exercise of free constitutional politics. Former leader of my party Dick Gephardt said that democracy was a substitute for war, that we should settle our differences peacefully and nonviolently.

The speech that has been the subject of this resolution whittles away at the rule of law and the stability needed to constructive debate. Indeed, violent words and images are too often a precursor to the practice of violence. We have seen that. We saw it on January 6, as the president of the United States incited and urged people to come to the Congress to stop democracy in its tracks.

And people wanted to hang the vice president of the United States as a result of those words because he was not doing that because he thought it was not legal. He wanted to follow the law.

My friend Gabby Giffords and Senator Kelly know that all too well, that violent words and images are too often a precursor, as does Representative Speier, who worked for the late Representative Leo Ryan, and was herself badly injured in the shooting that took his life.

As well, my friend the Republican whip and his family know that words can encourage and result in violence. Last month, the family and constituents of Sir David Amess in the United Kingdom experienced the same pain. All of us who were in this Capitol on January 6 and those who stood in defense of it know that pain, the loved ones of Officer Sicknick, Liebengood, deFreytag and Hashida carry that pain with them every day.

Officer Evans' family was carrying that pain since April. Madam Speaker, so do the families of elected officials, journalists and civil society leaders who have been killed or maimed by political violence across the world, incited by rhetoric that is rationalized as acceptable in the political environment.

And then, oh, I don't support violence. I don't know how that happened.

Yes, I said in the front of the Capitol of the United States -- excuse me -- of the White House, go down to the Capitol. And although it wasn't the exact words of be violent, it's what those who came down here expected the exhortation to be.

It would be naive, Madam Speaker, to suppose that we can eradicate the promotion of violence in wider society either in our country or abroad. Such evil has always existed. And the Internet and social media make it easier to disseminate that malicious type of speech.

But constitutional parliamentarians worldwide have long understood that, in order to maintain the level of civility required to carry out the business of legislation for the people, we must have rules of decorum and limits on speech that would cause civil debate to devolve into uncivil attacks and political violence.

That's why we have rules in this House to enforce decorum and ensure civility. That's why we have rules of conduct, which the chairman of the Ethics Committee read a little earlier.


It should be and is undebatable that this conduct violated that rule. Those rules apply not only to this floor, but everywhere a sitting member engages in work relating to his or her service as a representative. When those rules were written, they did not anticipate that a member would threaten violence directly against another member, not because it's never happened.

A congressman from South Carolina nearly beat to death a senator from Massachusetts, Senator Sumner, because he wanted to abolish slavery. That, of course, was a crime. In some countries, threatening public officials is a crime. Didn't have to spell out that explicitly because it has always been understood that such behavior is unacceptable in this institution and incompatible with our service.

Indeed, any kindergarten, frankly, Madam Speaker, will tell you that such behavior is wrong anywhere. The actions of Representative Gosar this week and in weeks previously, much like the actions of Representative Greene earlier this year, would convey a dangerous lesson to our children and teenagers that the opposite is true, that threatening violence against those with whom one disagrees is acceptable.

It is not. That bullying and encouraging one's followers to menace another person or another group is somehow compatible with citizenship in a democracy and indeed a civilized society. It is not.

The resolution before us today is necessary because we, in this House, who speak for the American, people must reflect, as the speaker said, the highest standards of American society. I just came from the speaker's office not too long ago. I don't know how many of you have been there. But over the door, it is the Robert Michel Rooms.

I had the opportunity to serve with Robert Michel. He was a Republican. He was from Peoria, Illinois. He was the finest -- one of the finest, most decent men that I have known, not just serving in the Congress of the United States, but have known.

He said this -- quote -- "Civility means being tough without being mean, being witty without being malicious, and believing in the power of reason to influence public debate while still being aware of the power" -- hear these last words -- "being aware of the power of irrationality in public life."

This resolution, Madam Speaker, is necessary, because when members of Congress and other elected officials speak and act, our constituents and followers give great weight to our words and actions. It is a way for them to rationalize unacceptable behavior, as was done on January 6.

It is disgusting, Madam Speaker, whenever someone out in the world tweets a threat of violence or hateful content. But when a member of the House does so, no matter how you rationalize it, no matter how you try to put lipstick on that pig, it is a threat of violence.

What Representative Gosar did last week is not just worthy of censure. It demands it. And for anyone who threatens to apply the same standard to Democrats in the future, as Ms. Speier said, I'm with you. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This is about decency. This is about security for our members. This is about democracy, not violent overthrow or opposition.

I, for one, will join you in enforcing that standard on any Democrat who violates it.

But I will tell you this. Your analogies -- Madam Speaker, the analogies that the Republicans have been making limp badly. I'm certain my fellow Democrats will do the same, because this is not about party. It's not about politics. It's not about partisanship. It's about decorum, civility, safety, and, yes, the rule of law that was trampled upon on January 6.

But this is not about January 6. But this is about this incident of a member using whatever medium you want to say on the public dime threatening and showing the killing of a member of this House.


Can't that appall you, even that act? Do you have no shame?

Madam Speaker, those are the questions that I would ask. No one, Democrat or Republican, ought to be involved to engage in the promotion of violence against a fellow member or, indeed, a fellow American, because we know where the glorification and promotion of violence leads. We have seen it. We have seen it this year and previous years. Piercing tweets become sharp knives. Fiery words bring out deadly firearms. And cartoon killing begets real-life bloodshed. This resolution specifically addresses Representative Gosar's action, but it also reflects more generally, Madam Speaker, what I hope is the sentiment shared by members from both parties that we have seen too much of violent speech in our politics and in this country, and it must end.

In February, when we considered a resolution relating to the violence promoting an indecorous actions of Representative Greene, I recall the famous words of Edmund Burke, Edmund Burke, who viewed service in his nation's Parliament as the highest calling.

He said, nothing is necessary for the spread of evil but that good men and women -- he did not add that, but would today certainly -- that good men and good women do nothing.

Once again, the Republican leadership in this House has chosen to do nothing. It's interesting, because a far lesser offense resulted in the removal of a Republican by the Republicans from committee, Steve King of Iowa.

So, again, the House, in light of that void, must take action. I urge my colleagues to vote yes on both sides of the aisle, to uphold a standard that should be critical to us all, some modicum of respect for those who are our political opponents, Madam Speaker, and some restraint in the way we depict them and ourselves.

Vote yes on this resolution. I yield back the balance of my time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentlelady from Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to yield two minutes to the gentleman from Kentucky Mr. Comber, the ranking member of the Oversight and Reform Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Madam Speaker, during Democrats' leadership of the House, we have seen an unprecedented exercise of authority that only a Democrat could wield due to the authoritarian nature of actions.

Democrat leadership has fined Republican members for not masking, installed metal detectors, stripped another member of committee assignments, issued and sought to enforce sweeping subpoenas against the former president and his top advisers.

And I'm not just talking about subpoenas related to the events of January 6. Democrats on the Oversight Committee are chilling, if not infringing the First Amendment rights of advocacy groups, corporations and individuals.

They have asked for communications between certain nonprofit organizations and certain members' offices. These communications fall squarely within the right to petition and freely associate. And, today, we're debating a resolution to censure Dr. Gosar for

something he posted to his Twitter account. While Republicans certainly do not condone violence and extreme behavior, my question for this body is, when will we exact punishment in an equitable -- that's one of the favorite words of my Democrat colleagues -- equitable manner?

Madam Speaker, we have Democratic colleagues who routinely call for violence in the streets, make anti-Semitic comments on Twitter, launch obscenities at our elected officials and engage in inappropriate relationships with Chinese operatives.

Yet, Madam Speaker, these Democrats maintain even their leadership positions on prestigious and sensitive committees like the Intelligence Committee. The last time we took this extraordinary step to censure a member of this House, it was Congressman Rangel, and that was after a thorough Ethics Committee investigation into tax evasion, improper use of official resources and other improper benefits.

Instead of solving America's crises, drugs flowing across the Southern border, rising gas prices and grocery prices and this ongoing pandemic, we are here on the floor debating the censure of Dr. Gosar?


He posted something on Twitter, a video that has since been removed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yield an additional 30 seconds.



COMER: Madam Speaker, I'd urge my colleagues to vote against this resolution, and I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentleman from Florida.


Madam Speaker, I yield one-and-a-half minutes to a member of the House Ethics Committee, the gentlewoman from Texas.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentlelady is recognized for one-and-one-half minutes.

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Madam Speaker, like Representative Ocasio-Cortez, I too have served in this House for three years. And I have found the dignity and respect that we deserve and owe one another in this chamber, it has been severely lacking.

While my Democratic colleagues and I continue to work on critical legislation that improves the lives of Americans, Mr. Gosar, a member of the Republican Conference, has decided to focus on promoting xenophobia and fetishizing violence, fanning the flames of hate.

Words have power. My community knows that only too well. And the example we set as members of Congress is followed by millions of Americans, Mr. Gosar's actions continue to lower the bar, obliterate standards for respect and civility, and make this workplace unsafe by targeting a colleague, a woman of color.

I'd like to note that women of color are frequent targets of hateful rhetoric and attacks like these. In any other environment, in any other environment, someone like Mr. Gosar would have immediately faced termination, would have to live with the consequences of his dangerous actions and words, but not in the Republican Conference.

Mr. Gosar's video, which glorifies the gruesome killing of our colleague and a violent attack against our president, should have sparked immediate condemnation and action by the minority leader and his entire conference.

But, instead, we're told to relax. And we're threatened, told that, if we dare take action, we will face retaliation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentlelady's time has expired.

ESCOBAR: My colleagues, when you give hate and racism...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentlelady's time has expired.

Gentlelady from Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker, additional 15 seconds.

ESCOBAR: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My colleagues, when you give hate racism and violence cover, you give it life. With this vote, we are saying not on our watch. I invite my Republican colleagues to do what's right and support this resolution.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Madam Speaker. I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentlelady from Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to yield two minutes to the gentleman from Texas Mr. Roy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I thank the gentlelady for yielding.

The -- my colleague just referenced the phrase any other environment, that there would be some consequences. Well, this is not any other environment. This is the House of Representatives. We have constituents who elect us, send us to Washington to represent them, engage in debate, engage in often heated discussions with each other.

This is not the same. One of the fundamental problems we have as a chamber right now is that it's being treated that way. It's being treated that way by the majority, shutting down our ability to engage in actual debate, shutting down our ability to move about the chamber wearing these masks.

Talking about right now, with CMS, what's happening as early as December 5, doctors in San Antonio, Texas, which I represent, being unable to perform their task as doctors, potentially resulting in loss of life and being able to carry out their livelihoods through vaccine mandates.

We have got untold harm occurring in South Texas with bodies and body trailers. We have got people dying. We have got actual consequences from these vaccine mandates causing people to lose their jobs, whether it's OSHA-related, private sector jobs, military, defense, Border Patrol, all of this happening as we head towards December 3 and a potential government shutdown.

And this is what we're having an actual debate on the floor of the House for. I have not seen this chamber look like this since I have been in Congress, where we're debating an issue, and we have got 100 members on the floor. We're down here usually giving speeches to an empty chamber.

Now, look, let me be clear, I would not have posted that video. I would have told my staff I don't want to do that if I knew what was in it. OK? But the video that was posted was an effort to make a point.

And we're now getting in the business of chilling debate and discussion about censoring our members and going down the road of pulling each other off of committees. Where's this going to end?

When Republicans are back in majority, where's that going to end? when my colleague Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in January called my former boss and my good friend Ted Cruz an attempted murderer, and I sent a letter to the leader saying, not asking for her to be stripped to committees, but just to apologize, it was met with utter silence.


I called then and I call now for us to drop that down and actually engage in debate on the issues that matter, actually engage in debate on what's occurring right now in America, where people are getting harmed, vaccine mandates, tyranny, open borders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman's time has expired.

The gentleman from Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Speaker, I yield one minute to the gentlelady from Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentlelady is recognized for one minute.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

REP. SYLVIA GARCIA (D-TX): Representative Gosar's behavior is alarming, unacceptable and should never, ever be tolerated. The official communication accounts of a member of the United States Congress should never in any way show or encourage violence against a colleague or threaten the president of the United States.

On January 6, we have personally experienced the consequences of allowing this kind of viciousness and vulgarity. Put simply, violent images in our politics encourages violence against any of us.

No one, especially women and women of color, should fear coming to do the work they were elected to do for the people. We must encourage young women to lead, not silence them, by tolerating threats like the -- Congressman Gosar's.

As members of Congress, we must set an example for the entire country, instead of encouraging violence against others. It is our moral imperative to be collegial to one another. It is our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable. And it is our obligation to protect the integrity and honor the United States Congress.

Children are watching. The world is watching. We must do better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentlelady's time has expired.

Gentlelady from Indiana.

GARCIA: Thank you. I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to yield two minutes to the gentleman from North Dakota, Mr. Armstrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I was in Minneapolis the Saturday that speech was given. So to say that it wasn't analogous is, I think, fairly uncertain. The entire town was a tinderbox. And so as we continue to move through this, I would appreciate a little less of the self-righteous indignation, because what is really damaging here and what is really unfortunate is that we have abandoned any recognition of institutional integrity, any pretense of fairness, any notion that some things should be above partisanship.

Because I got news, and I believe this. What I thought was said in Minneapolis doesn't rise to incitement of violence, jury tampering, possibly, irresponsible, absolutely. The same thing goes with this post. It was dumb. It was silly. It was stupid. It was mean-spirited, but you know what it's not? It's not incitement of violence.

And when we use hyperbole and those words, we cause ourselves problems. But there's no point and attempt with the majority at this point to follow through on any rules or procedures. The U.S. House of Representatives looks more significantly more like a junior high lunch room than a legislative body.

If you're in our clique, you're OK. If not, tough. If we like you, no fines. If we don't, we will take it out of your paycheck. A member on our side -- a member on your side calls for violence, motion to table. A member on our side, stand in the well and answer for your sins.

Rules matter. Process matters. The institution matters. And this will be the fourth member of the minority stripped of their committees by the majority this Congress. That has never happened before, but it's going to happen again. And that's what I don't understand.

I understand completely what -- why the majority's leadership is willing to do anything to maintain control over the caucus until the next election. But in the process, you are all negatively and permanently changing the way this body functions forever.

You are weaponizing the gavel against minority members. And if you think it stops at the next election, I have no doubt that the leadership in the majority has no intention of going back to being a rank-and-file member in the minority. But the rest of you all will.

And how do you think this ends? When the pendulum swings, and it will, you are all going to suffer? We're going to suffer the consequences.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I yield an additional 30 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is recognized for 30 seconds.

ARMSTRONG: And the institution is going to suffer for it. And it's already suffering for it.

Committee structures, scheduling hearings, witness lists, these are all previous to the majority. But rules of conduct and decorum have been applied equal -- have to be applied equally to all members or the institution continues to degrade. And the rules are not being applied equally.

And it's noticed by us. It's noticed by the American people. It's unfortunate and it's sad. And with that, I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Members are once again reminded to address their remarks to the chair.

Gentleman from Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yield one minute to the House majority whip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentleman is recognized for one minute.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

And I thank the gentleman for yielding me the time.

Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of this censure resolution. Today's actions is necessary due to Representative Gosar's shocking depiction of a murder of a colleague and a violent attack against the president of the United States.


This incendiary behavior cannot go unaddressed. The minority leader's failure to hold his conference member accountable leaves us no choice but to proceed with this action.

I often refer to the hall of this House as America's classroom. As members of this august body, we should conduct ourselves in a way that we must want our students to emulate.

Mr. Gosar's behavior fails our students, fails our colleagues, and fails our nation and ideals we espouse. I urge unanimous support for this resolution.

I yield back the balance of my time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentlelady from Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to yield two minutes to the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): Thank you, Madam Chair.

As my colleagues have said, this is not about Mr. Gosar. This is about hypocrisy from the majority and the double standard. Do we really -- does anyone in this chamber think we would be here today if the exact situation was reversed? Clearly, we'd not be here today.

The American people don't care about what we're doing here today. When we get back to our districts next week, no one will ask us, well, what about the cartoon video? What happened with that?

The media cares, as we can see here today. My colleagues across the aisle care because they have an opportunity again here, but when -- our hardworking constituents, what they care about is the disastrous policies enacted by this administration and the majority, the disastrous policies, none of which are working.

We cannot point to one thing in the country that's going well under these disastrous policies, the border invasion, the rising gas prices, the out-of-control inflation, the reckless spending of our children's future. There's not -- the failure in Afghanistan, our failure with our standing around the world.

There's not one issue, rising crime, nothing they can point to, so instead we point to a distraction here today to pretend that this matters to the American people. We have got this faux outrage, as others who have said, because a Rasmussen poll said just this week, on the generic ballot, Republicans are up by 13 percent.

But the tone-deaf majority is trying to ram through as much of their partisan agenda as they can, but what they're going to find out is America spoke two weeks ago in the election, and there are many of their constituents and now former Democrats who spoke two weeks ago as well.

And they're saying, what in the world are we doing here on the House floor today? We're stalling before we try to pass a radical build back bankrupt, Bernie and AOC's budget bill, and here we are today trying to punish a member, another ounce of flesh, trying silence Republican voices on committees.

And I urge all of my colleagues to vote against this sham bill and resolution.

And I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentleman from Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yield 1.5 minutes to the gentlelady from Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentlelady's recognized for 1.5 minutes.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you, Madam Speaker. And I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Madam Speaker, I rise to urge the censure and the removal from committees of Mr. Gosar for portraying the murder of a fellow colleague and promoting violence against immigrants.

We know that promoting visions of violence and spreading false, hateful rhetoric foments actual violence. January 6 taught us that. And, surely, we cannot use taxpayers own money to promote violent images and conduct directed at other members.

I still see bedside visions of my friend Gabby Giffords fighting for her life after being shot at a district event, her aide already dead. I shudder to recall our own colleague Mr. Scalise limping to this very chamber on a cane because someone tried to assassinate him.

Explosive residue still clings to a stairwell outside my district office where a pipe bomb sent by a deranged Trump supporter and handled by my staff later had to be safely detonated.

The history of violence aimed at women and people of color and those who defend them are among humankind's worst chapters. You know, it's ironic that Mr. Gosar compares himself to Alexander Hamilton, and another member condoned the stylized violence portrayed by Mr. Gosar, because Hamilton was actually killed by accepted high-class violence in his day in a duel.

Promoting and glorifying such conduct cannot be condoned or ignored by this body. Voting to censure Mr. Gosar today firmly denounces it unequivocally.

I yield back the balance of my time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentlelady from Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to yield two minutes to the gentleman from Louisiana Mr. Higgins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentleman's recognized for two minutes.