House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy defended President Trump Tuesday, saying his tweets suggesting some progressive freshman minority members of Congress should go back to where they come from were not racist.
Instead, he noted the four Democratic lawmakers who have attacked the president used the same claim of racism against their own leader just last week after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly singled out women of color for criticism.
“And I do not believe the speaker of the House was racist last week either when those individuals on her side of the aisle, who are claiming the president is racist, when they claimed she was racist, either,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters.
He argued this divide between the president and the progressives is about ideology.
“This is about socialism versus freedom. It’s very clear what the debate is happening,” the California Republican said.
But Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer pushed back, calling Mr. McCarthy’s argument “baloney” and saying Republican attempts to tie the Democratic Party to socialism is akin to Russia’s disinformation campaign.
“The NRCC is trying to sell that fake news in a Russia type [of] way,” he told reporters.
Mr. McCarthy, though, said Democrats are playing “political stunts” instead of working on bipartisan solutions to help fix the border crisis.
“We’ll spend more time on the floor dealing with politics,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Democrats are bringing a resolution to the floor Tuesday for a vote to condemn the president over his tweets, which he first posted over the weekend.
Mr. Trump has since doubled down on his remarks, saying he is not racist and that many people agree with his statements.
Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, called the resolution “typical Democrat overreach.”
“I’m curious to see where resolutions are that call out members of Speaker Pelosi’s own party that have made blatantly anti-Semitic comments,” he said, referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has made several controversial comments about Israel and Jewish people.
Mr. Scalise argued that the resolution’s title — “condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress” — is itself a violation of House rules.
The rules, which trace back to Thomas Jefferson’s writings, allow members to criticize the government or the president on the House floor in an official capacity, but prohibit language that is “personally offensive” to the president. For example, lawmakers cannot call the president a liar or hypocrite.
Mr. Hoyer pushed back against arguments that the resolution crossed a line, arguing it was focused on his tweets.
“We’re condemning the language that was used, not the president himself,” he said. “To leave unresponded to in a collective way — and giving our Republican colleagues, as well as our Democratic colleagues, the opportunity to tell America, ‘We do not agree, this is offensive, this is wrong in America,’ is absolutely essential for us to do.”
The no. 2 Democrat said he’s not anticipating a problem, but will “deal with it at that point in time” if it does come up.
A spokesperson for Mr. Scalise said GOP leadership will formally advise Republican members to vote against the resolution later Tuesday.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump said the progressive lawmakers have been critical of the U.S. and instead should help fix corrupt countries elsewhere.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how,” the president said in a series of tweets.
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