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Vote to condemn Trump tweets erupts into parliamentary fight on House floor

The episode could spawn a whole new vote to strip Nancy Pelosi of her duties for the day.

The trench of contentiousness between the democrats and the republicans in Congress grew ever deeper this week as Nancy Pelosi attempted to condemn controversial tweets by President Trump.

In the tweets, Trump suggested that certain democratic Congresswoman “go back to where they are from” – a term believed to be indicative of racism, if you ask the targets of the tweet.  The backlash was so immediate, and so visceral, that just a day later House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was presiding over a vote in the House of Representatives that would have officially condemned the tweet.

She didn’t get too far before a bit of angst boiled over in the chamber.

As Pelosi’s remarks turned personal, Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins rose to challenge her and demand that her words be “taken down.” The extraordinary rebuke, the first of its kind by a member of Congress and a speaker of the House in decades, theoretically could result in Pelosi being barred from speaking on the floor for the remainder of the day.

“There is no place anywhere for the president’s words, which are not only divisive, but dangerous — and have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “It’s so sad because you would think that there would be a given that we would universally, in this body, just say, ‘Of course. Of course.'”

Pelosi continued, her voice rising: “There’s no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong unified condemnation. Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets. To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values, and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people. I urge a unanimous vote, and yield back the balance of my time.”

Collins then stood and asked if Pelosi wanted to “rephrase that comment.”

Pelosi stood firm, however, and the congressional parliamentarian was called in for assistance.

The concern is that the language used by Pelosi was “too personal” for the likes of government – something that is regulated by the rules of order.

Among other volumes, the House has used Thomas Jefferson’s “Manual of Parliamentary Practice” as a touchstone for House operations even today. Jefferson’s manual stated that House members cannot use language on the floor “which is personally offensive to the President.”

The House also relies on Cannon’s Book of Precedents, authored by the late Missouri Rep. Clarence Cannon, a Democrat. Cannon’s book says that “personal criticism, innuendo, ridicule and terms of opprobrium” are out of the order in the House.

It will take a vote in the House to determine whether or no Pelosi’s comments were out of line.


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