The Democratic-led House of Representatives has voted to condemn US president Donald Trump’s “racist comments” against four congresswomen, despite protestations by Mr Trump that he has not got “a racist bone in my body”.
Two days after the president tweeted that four Democratic politicians should “go back” to their home countries – although all are citizens and three were born in the US – Democrats muscled the resolution through the chamber by 240-187 over strong Republican opposition.
The rebuke was an embarrassing one for Mr Trump, and he had appealed to Republican politicians not to go along – but four Republican’s voted for the resolution.
The measure carries no legal repercussions for the president and the highly partisan roll calls suggest it is unlikely to cost him with his die-hard conservative base.
Before the vote, Mr Trump accused his four outspoken critics of “spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician” and added, “If you hate our country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!”
Republicans formally objected after Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said during a floor speech that the president’s tweets were “racist”.
Led by Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, Republicans moved to have her words stricken from the record, a rare procedural rebuke.
After a delay of more than 90 minutes, House Democrat Steny Hoyer said Ms Pelosi had indeed violated a House rule against characterising an action as racist.
Mr Hoyer was presiding after Representative Emanuel Cleaver stormed away from the presiding officer’s chair, saying “we want to just fight,” – a comment seemingly aimed at Republicans.
Despite Mr Hoyer’s ruling, Democrats flexed their muscle and the House voted by party line to leave Ms Pelosi’s words intact in the record.
Some rank-and-file Republicans agreed that Mr Trump’s words were racist, but on Tuesday party leaders insisted they were not and accused Democrats of using the resulting tumult to score political points.
Among the few voices of restraint, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Mr Trump was not racist, but he also called on leaders “from the president to the speaker to the freshman members of the House” to attack ideas, not the people who espouse them.
“There’s been a consensus that political rhetoric has gotten way, way heated across the political spectrum,” said the Republican leader from Kentucky, breaking his own two days of silence on Mr Trump’s attacks.
Hours earlier, the president tweeted, “Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!”
He wrote that House Republicans should “not show ‘weakness'” by agreeing to a resolution he called”a Democrat con game.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of Mr Trump’s four targets, returned his fire.
“You’re right, Mr President – you don’t have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head and a racist heart in your chest,” she tweeted.
You’re right, Mr. President – you don’t have a racist bone in your body.
You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest.
That’s why you violate the rights of children and tell the Congresswoman who represents your home borough, to “go back to my country.” https://t.co/adlCUO7r0v
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 16, 2019
The four-page Democratic resolution said the House “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimised and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of colour”.
It said Mr Trump’s slights “do not belong in congress or in the United States of America”.
The resolution included a full page of remarks by President Ronald Reagan, who is revered by Republicans.
Mr Reagan said in 1989 that if the US shut its doors to newcomers, “our leadership in the world would soon be lost”.
In tweets on Tuesday night, Mr Trump took a positive view of the vote, saying it was “so great” that only four Republicans had crossed party lines and noting the procedural rebuke of Ms Pelosi. “Quite a day!” he wrote.
….visible members of the House Democrats, who are now wedded to this bitterness and hate. The Republican vote was 187-4. Wow! Also, this was the first time since 1984 that the Speaker of the House was ruled Out of Order and broke the Rules of the House. Quite a day!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2019
Mr Trump’s criticism was aimed at four Democrats who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and thinly veiled distaste for Mr Trump: Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
All were born in the US except for Ms Omar, who came to the US as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.
The four have been in an increasingly personal clash with Democratic Speaker Ms Pelosi, too, over how assertively the House should be in trying to restrain Mr Trump’s ability to curb immigration.