Politics

House censures Rep. Rashida Tlaib over Israel remarks

Scott Wong and Kyle Stewart
WATCH LIVE
WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Palestinian descent US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib takes part in a demonstration organized with the attendance of multiple Jewish groups outside the Capitol Building in Washington DC, United States on October 18, 2023 to advocate for a halt in hostilities in Gaza. (Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

House lawmakers on Tuesday censured Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the sole Palestinian American in Congress, over her remarks and actions in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

The censure resolution, authored by Rep. Rich McCormick, R-Ga., passed 234 to 188 with almost two dozen Democrats voting in favor of it.

The measure censures Tlaib, D-Mich., for "promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel."

"It is a sad fact, but this type of antisemitic hate is being promoted by a small group of members in this body, chiefly Rep. Tlaib," McCormick said on the House floor before the vote. "We must hold her accountable."

The vote comes one month after the deadly Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and amid the devastating Israeli bombardment of the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Republicans have seized on Tlaib's words and actions criticizing Israel, joining several Democrats in condemning a video she posted on social media showing protesters chanting "from the river to the sea" — a phrase that has been used by Hamas and that Jewish groups consider an antisemitic call for the elimination of Israel. The video also says that President Joe Biden "supported the genocide of the Palestinian people," and Tlaib herself warns Biden, "We will remember in 2024."

Tlaib's positions have divided Democrats, who are wrestling with how to respond to the new conflict in the Middle East. They have condemned the horrific Hamas terror attack that Israel says killed 1,400 people, but many Democrats also have been critical of Israel's military campaign in Gaza that has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, according to health officials there. A growing number of Democrats have called for a humanitarian pause to provide aid to innocent civilians in Gaza, while a smaller group, including Tlaib, have pushed for a cease-fire.

More from NBC News:
Senate confirms Biden's 150th judge
White House condemns demonstrators ripping down posters of Israeli hostages
Sen. Josh Hawley renews efforts to ban TikTok, citing app's influence on Israel-Hamas war opinions

Ahead of Tuesday night's vote, Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar of California said leadership had encouraged rank-and-file Democrats to vote to table the censure resolution against Tlaib. The House rejected that motion in a 208-213 vote.

But Aguilar also was quick to condemn Tlaib's video.

"I extremely disagree with the statement, the video," he said. "I could not disagree more with the term. I think it's offensive."

In a lengthy statement before the vote, Tlaib defended her comments and actions, arguing that she is the lone Palestinian voice in Congress and protected by free speech.

"It's a shame my colleagues are more focused on silencing me than they are on saving lives, as the death toll in Gaza surpasses 10,000. Many of them have shown me that Palestinian lives simply do not matter to them, but I still do not police their rhetoric or actions," she said.

"Rather than acknowledge the voice and perspective of the only Palestinian American in Congress, my colleagues have resorted to distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies," Tlaib continued. "I have repeatedly denounced the horrific targeting and killing of civilians by Hamas and the Israeli government and have mourned the Israeli and Palestinian lives lost."

The vote also comes the same day that McCormick said he was "temporarily closing" his district office in Cumming "due to serious threats of violence against my staff."

"These threats have been reported to Capitol Police and will be investigated fully," McCormick said in a post on X.

U.S. Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night, while a spokesperson for McCormick's office said they were "unable to share any of the details about the threat or its circumstances at this time."

Last week the House voted to punt another resolution to censure Tlaib, authored by GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, over concerns from Democrats and Republicans alike that the language was too incendiary. She later revised the resolution.

Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., who recently traveled to Israel on a fact-finding mission after the Oct. 7 attack, told reporters he supports both censure resolutions.

"We cannot have sitting members of Congress calling for genocide. And 'from the river to the sea' is a call for genocide, for the eradication of the Jewish people. We just can't do that," Van Orden said. "Free speech is one thing, but calling actively for genocide of a people when you're a sitting member of this House cannot stand. No way."