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House advances censure resolution against Rep. Rashida Tlaib amid bipartisan backlash over Israel comments

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Washington — Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan appears to be on the verge of being censured by the House after a number of Republicans withdrew their opposition to a formal reprimand following her latest controversial comments about Israel.

The House voted Tuesday to approve the first of two resolutions to formally punish the Michigan Democrat for a long list of remarks she has made about Israel. The vote on a motion to table, or kill, the resolution was 213 to 208 in favor. Six Republicans joined all but one Democrat in voting to block the measure introduced by Georgia Rep. Rich McCormick.

The House is also expected 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 introduce the measure.

But Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in the House, sparked a new 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 rally in Washington on October 20, 2023.

José Luis Magana / AP

This phrase is seen by many Jews as a call for the destruction of Israel. Tlaib said the phrase is “an ambitious call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hatred.” Tlaib also accused President Biden of supporting “the genocide of the Palestinian people” by supporting Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

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

Tlaib delivered an emotional speech on the House floor after McCormick’s resolution passed, saying her comments about Israel were directed at her government and imploring colleagues who do not support a ceasefire to consider the plight of Palestinians.

“The idea that criticizing the Israeli government is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent and has been used to silence diverse human rights voices across our nation,” she said.

“I can’t believe I have to say this, but the Palestinian people are not disposable,” she said through tears. “We are human beings, like everyone else.”

Tlaib did not directly address her defense of the slogan.

Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said earlier Tuesday that he “strongly disagreed” with Tlaib’s defense of the phrase.

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

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

“So if anyone repeats that phrase in America, it’s very inflammatory,” Lieu said. “I have a district that has one of the largest Jewish populations outside of the State of Israel, and they are afraid. They are afraid of the rise in anti-Semitism. When they see phrases like these- there, they are afraid.

“And we have the right to free speech in America,” he said. “People can repeat that phrase every hour if they want. Part of free speech means people also have the right to criticize and condemn those who use that phrase. And I just want people understand that when you use this phrase in “In the context of the brutal Hamas invasion, it frightens American Jews. So I just asked people to understand what they were doing when they used this expression. ”

But Aguilar said Democratic leaders encouraged their members to vote to table the resolutions, which would kill them, and to oppose the censure resolutions if they came to a vote.

“It’s not productive at the moment,” Aguilar said of the censorship efforts. “We are 10 days away from a government shutdown.”

McCormick said he introduced a separate resolution from Greene’s because he objected to language in his previous measure that accused Tlaib of “leading an insurrection” in 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 in favor of Greene’s previous measure.

Greene’s latest measure does not include insurrectionist language.

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