House moves closer to condemning Tlaib, citing ‘River to Sea’ slogan

The House moved closer to impeaching Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, on Tuesday, putting lawmakers on track to formally reprimand the only Palestinian-American in Congress over her statements regarding the Israel-Hamas war.

One Democrat broke with the party and joined most Republicans in voting against submit or kill, resolution, which accuses Ms. Tlaib on “promoting false narratives” surrounding Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and “calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.” The vote was 213 to 208, with one “present” vote, suggesting there was enough support in the House to pass the resolution on a final vote expected Wednesday.

Representative Brad Schneider of Illinois was the only Democrat to vote to allow the measure to move forward. Representative Susan Wild, D-Pennsylvania, voted “absent,” declining to take a position on whether the measure should be blocked. Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting to table the resolution.

The Republican-written measure rebuking Ms. Tlaib was the latest flashpoint in an intensifying congressional debate over the war between Israel and Hamas that has divided Democrats. While many of them are staunch supporters of Israel, there is growing pressure from the progressive left to call for a ceasefire and focus on the plight of the Palestinian people in the face of rising civilian deaths and a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Ms. Tlaib was by far the most vocal member of Congress to do so.

The measure, offered by Representative Rich McCormick, Republican of Georgia, claims that statement of Mrs. Tlaib after Hamas’ attack on Israel — which called for an end to the “apartheid system that creates suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance” — “defended” terrorism.

Ms. Tlaib is also said to have embraced the phrase “from the river to the sea,” a pro-Palestinian rallying cry widely seen as calling for the eradication of Israel and considered anti-Semitic by the Anti-Defamation League. The resolution called the term “a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people in order to replace it with a Palestinian state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

Ms Tlaib said the slogan, used by pro-Palestinian protesters shown in a video she released accusing President Biden of supporting the genocide in Gaza, was “a call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hatred.”

During the debate in a speech after the vote, Ms. Tlaib became emotional as she repeated her calls for a ceasefire, defended her criticism of the Israeli government and advocated compassion for the plight of the Palestinian people.

“I can’t believe I have to say this, but the Palestinians are not disposable,” she said, appearing to choke back tears as Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, stood to comfort her. “The cries of Palestinian and Israeli children do not sound different to me.”

Ms Tlaib said her criticism had “always been” of the Israeli government, not the Israeli people, and warned her colleagues that the movement calling for a ceasefire was “growing every day”.

“You can try to condemn me, but you can’t silence their voices,” she said.

Many Democrats condemned Ms. Tlaib’s remarks. And on Tuesday, Mr. Schneider, the only Democrat to vote against tabling the resolution, accused Ms. Tlaib of “trying to shut down the world and give cover” to those using the “river to sea” slogan.

“I will always defend the right to free speech,” Mr. Schneider said in a statement. “Tlaib has the right to say whatever he wants. But it cannot remain unanswered.”

Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, said in a statement after the vote that repeating the slogan “does not advance progress toward a two-state solution. Instead, it unacceptably risks further polarization, division and incitement to violence.”

Last week, the House rejected a different criticism of Ms. Tlaib by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, who accused Ms. Tlaib of “anti-Semitic activity” and called the Oct. 18 protest in the House office building “an uprising.”

Mrs. Greene amended and reintroduced its resolution of conviction, who faces a similar vote Tuesday night. The new version instead refers to the Oct. 18 protest, where Ms. Tlaib accused Israel of genocide, as the “illegal occupation” of the House office building.

Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, opposed Ms. Greene’s resolution last week and said he intended to vote against the new pair of convictions.

“It’s not our job to judge someone because we don’t agree with them,” he said. “Let the Ethics Committee look into it. Let others look at it, but I will not vote for a motion to ban unless it is very serious behaviour.”

It is rare for a member of Congress to be convicted, which is a public reprimand one step below impeachment. Before June, the House had convicted members only 24 times in the House’s history. But resolutions of condemnation have increasingly been used in recent months to trade criticism and partisan blame.

In its first week of legislative business after a month of paralysis over a chaotic speaker’s race, the House considered two impeachment resolutions back-to-back. Since then, at least three more banning resolutions have been introduced.

The measures are privileged under House rules, meaning they take precedence over other legislative business and are not subject to the discretion of congressional leaders.

Karoun Demirjian contributed to the reporting.

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