The Democratic-led House responded to Donald Trump’s sustained attacks on four female Democratic lawmakers by taking the extraordinary step of rebuking the president for racism.
The resolution — backed by all 235 Democrats, four Republicans and one independent — accused the president of having “legitimised and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of colour,” a serious accusation that sharply draws the battle lines going into the 2020 elections.
Trump had egged Democrats on, issuing his tweets and incendiary remarks for three straight days. “It’s my opinion they hate our country,” he said during a cabinet meeting at the White House, speaking of the quartet that includes Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
For each side, the moment played to their party’s base. Democrats, under pressure to begin impeachment proceedings for a polarising president, took a strong, but symbolic, swipe at Trump.
Republicans and Trump, who decried the recent House vote as partisan politics, tried to tie all Democrats to the progressive — and at times controversial — image of Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, all women of color.
In their first joint interview, Pressley told CBS that Trump is merely “occupying” the White House and disputed the charge that the four have dishonored the office of the presidency.
“He’s only occupying the space,” Pressley said. “He does not embody the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity of a true president. And so for that reason I am not dishonouring the office. He does every day. This is a distraction. This is a disruption.’’
Relations between the White House and Congress have tumbled to a new low, just as the clock is ticking on important negotiations on the debt ceiling, government spending and trade.
The conflict risks not only colouring the rest of this Congress, but also setting a fraught tone for 2020 campaigns when Trump and every member of the House will be up for re-election.
The volley of personal attacks is comfortable ground for a president who mercilessly taunts those who turn against him and thrives with a political foil.
Since his initial tweets falsely claiming that a group of progressive congresswomen came from other countries, Trump has doubled down on Twitter and other forums.
“If you do not call out racism at the level of the White House, then you are complicit in many respects with racism’s pervasiveness throughout the country,” said Representative Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat.
Representative Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan said “this represents a sad moment where we’ve fallen so far in this country that the president can make such comments.”