House lawmakers voted Wednesday to torpedo a resolution censuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her harsh criticisms of Israel in the wake of Hamas’s deadly attacks last month.
The effort required 23 Republicans, joined by all Democrats, to vote in favor of a procedural motion that blocked the disciplinary resolution from reaching the floor. The final tally was 222 to 186.
The vote was something of a surprise: Tlaib, a staunch liberal who’s been harshly critical of Israel, has few fans in the GOP when it comes to Middle Eastern politics. The Republicans who voted to protect her were a mixture of conservatives and moderates, with some citing First Amendment reasons and others arguing that the language of the censure resolution was simply off target.
The censure resolution — sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — had accused Tlaib of “leading an insurrection” for her participation in an anti-war protest last month at the Capitol, organized by Jewish groups, which featured scores of arrests.
Pro-Israel Democrats, who might have been inclined to censure Tlaib’s comments, had hammered Greene for her inaccurate characterization of a peace protest — albeit a rowdy one — and for sensationalizing Tlaib’s role in orchestrating it. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) echoed that sentiment, saying he voted to table the legislation because of the “insurrection” language.
“Rep. Rashida Tlaib has repeatedly made outrageous remarks toward Israel and the Jewish people. Her conduct is unbecoming of a member of Congress and certainly worthy of condemnation – if not censure,” he wrote on X. “However, tonight’s feckless resolution to censure Tlaib was deeply flawed and made legally and factually unverified claims, including the claim of leading an ‘insurrection.’”
Democrats were also leery that Greene’s “insurrectionist” language had trivialized the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Trump.
Wednesday’s vote came as the escalating violence in the Middle East has highlighted the deep rift among Democrats when it comes to Israel, pitting liberal, pro-Palestinian lawmakers like Tlaib — who have accused Israel of war crimes in its response to the Hamas attacks — against staunch Israel allies, who fear the criticisms of a close U.S. ally will only empower Hamas and invite antisemitism.
That schism is expected to take center stage later this week when the House votes on a GOP-crafted $14.3 billion Israel aid package that includes cuts to IRS funding to pay for the package.
Tlaib, Congress’s only Palestinian American member, has long denounced Israel for its human rights record in Palestine. Those criticisms sharpened with Israel’s military response to the Hamas attacks, which Palestinian authorities say have killed thousands of civilians in Gaza.
Tlaib has condemned the violence on all sides, while also accusing Israel of creating “apartheid” conditions in Gaza and committing genocide against Palestinians.
Greene’s three-page censure resolution charged Tlaib with “antisemitic activity” and “sympathizing with terrorist organizations.” It listed a number of Tlaib’s criticisms of Israel in recent years, the most recent being a statement she released one day after Hamas’s attack on Israel that called for “lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.”
“The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer. No person, no child anywhere should have to suffer or live in fear of violence,” Tlaib added. “We cannot ignore the humanity in each other. As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”
The resolution also accused Tlaib of “leading an insurrection at the United States Capitol Complex,” in reference to the anti-war protest that took place on Capitol Hill last month in favor of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. The protest, which was organized by the Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, two Jewish advocacy groups, led to a number of arrests.
As part of the protest, Tlaib spoke at a rally on the lawn of the Capitol calling for a cease-fire. She did not join protestors inside a Capitol office building, however, where most of the arrests took place, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Tlaib said the censure resolution is “deeply Islamophobic and attacks peaceful Jewish anti-war advocates.”
Greene last week moved to force a vote on the censure resolution, a rarely used procedural gambit that compelled leadership — under the helm of newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) — to set a vote within two legislative days.
Censure is a largely symbolic gesture; there are no further repercussions beyond the vote. But it carries with it the stigma that a lawmaker has acted in ways unbecoming of Congress — as judged by colleagues.
Once a rarity, censure has been used with greater frequency in recent years, as Congress has become more polarized and the tone of the attacks across the aisle have grown more acrimonious.
Two years ago, Democrats censured Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) for posting an animated video depicting violence against Democrats. This year, Republicans responded in kind with the censure of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for his role investigating former President Trump’s ties to Russia.
That new trend was on full display last week, when first-term Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) moved to force a vote on a resolution censuring Greene shortly after the Georgia Republican did the same for her legislation penalizing Tlaib.
Balint suggested that she was forcing a vote on her resolution — which she introduced in July — because Greene moved on her Tlaib resolution, while taking a jab at Johnson.
“The fact that on the very first day of his leadership, he lets Marjorie Taylor Greene bring to the floor a resolution that is riddled with lies and falsehoods on my colleague, it won’t stand,” Balint told reporters last week. “This woman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, it seems to be her only purpose is to sic Americans after other Americans, to fan more hatred, to fan more dissension and fear-mongering, and we have got to have a bottom here.”
Updated at 8:36 a.m. on Nov. 2.