The House voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Tuesday night, rebuking the Michigan Democrat for her criticism of Israel following Hamas’s unprecedented attack on the U.S. ally.
The chamber approved the reprimand in a 234-188-4 vote, with 22 Democrats bucking party leadership to support the resolution, and four Republicans voting against it.
The vote is the culmination of a week-plus effort by Republicans to punish Tlaib — the only Palestinian American serving in Congress — for comments critical of Israel that have drawn condemnation from both sides of the aisle.
And it marks the pinnacle of the current controversy surrounding Tlaib. The congresswoman posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, over the weekend that said President Biden “supported the genocide of the Palestinian people” and included clips of protesters changing “from the river to the sea,” which the Anti-Defamation Leagues characterizes as antisemitic. In a subsequent social media post, Tlaib defended her use of the controversial phrase.
The remark sparked bipartisan condemnation and prompted a statement from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) that did not name Tlaib but criticized her use of the phrase, which he said is “widely understood as calling for the complete destruction of Israel” and “unacceptably risks further polarization, division and incitement to violence.”
Still, Democratic leadership earlier Tuesday had urged their members to vote against advancing the resolution, defending Tlaib’s right to make the controversial comments, despite most disagreeing with her words.
Democrats largely stuck together on the procedural vote, with only one voting against the motion to table, before a larger group split off on the final vote.
The censure resolution, sponsored by Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), accuses Tlaib of “promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel,” referencing her use of the controversial phrase on social media.
It also cites a statement from Tlaib on Oct. 8, the day after Hamas launched its attack, which suggested that U.S. aid to Israel was partially to blame for the violence in the Middle East.
Tuesday’s vote makes Tlaib the second lawmaker to be censured this year and the 26th in history. House Republicans voted to rebuke Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in June for his efforts against former President Trump.
Despite the publicity of censure resolutions, the measures are largely symbolic. There are no repercussions for the nonbinding resolution, though it carries the stigma of being disciplined by a lawmaker’s colleague. Additionally, McCormick’s resolution did not require Tlaib to stand in the well of the chamber for the reading of the censure, which has been required in previous cases.
Tlaib defended herself from the censure effort in an impassioned — and at times emotional — speech on the House floor Tuesday, arguing that her criticisms have been of the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while declaring “I will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words.”
She also spoke in support of the lives of Palestinian people.
“I can’t believe I have to say this, but Palestinian lives are not disposable,” Tlaib said on the House floor, appearing to hold back tears.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) stood up and put her hand on Tlaib’s shoulder in an apparent attempt to console her.
“We are human beings just like anyone else,” Tlaib continued, holding up a photo of her grandmother. “My grandmother, like all Palestinians, just wants to live her life with freedom and human dignity we all deserve. Speaking up to save lives, Mr. Chair, no matter faith, no matter ethnicity, should not be controversial in this chamber.”
After Tuesday night’s vote — which Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) gaveled out — Tlaib gathered in the well of the House chamber and held hands with other progressive lawmakers, including Omar and Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). At one point, they appeared to be praying.
Tuesday night’s vote came as a bit of a surprise, despite the more-than-week-long push to censure Tlaib.
The House advanced McCormick’s censure resolution earlier Tuesday, teeing up a final vote Wednesday. But late Tuesday, leadership added a vote on adopting the measure to that evening’s schedule, fast-tracking the process.
And in a twist, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — who sponsored her own resolution censuring Tlaib — told reporters that she decided to pull her legislation from consideration.
Last week, 23 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to table Greene’s censure resolution, with some voicing concern with Greene’s allegation of Tlaib “leading an insurrection at the United States Capitol Complex.” The charge had referred to Tlaib’s participation in a protest at the Capitol last month — organized by Jewish groups — that led to a number of arrests.
The resolution also accused Tlaib of “antisemitic activity” and “sympathizing with terrorist organizations.”
Greene revised her resolution over the weekend, swapping out “insurrection” with “illegal occupation” and adding a clause about the video Tlaib posted over the weekend that included the phrase “from the river to the sea.”
The chamber was slated to vote on a Democratic-led motion to table that resolution Tuesday night, but Greene told reporters walking into the Capitol that evening that she pulled her legislation from consideration.
“I’m not gonna be part of a competing censure resolution because leadership failed to organize it,” she told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday night. “For me, I decided to pull it. She’s getting censured; that’s what I set out to do, and that’s what’s happening.”
Traditionally a rare rebuke, censure resolutions have become more common on Capitol Hill in recent months — and particularly the last two weeks.
In addition to the McCormick and Greene resolutions targeting Greene, Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) moved to force a vote on her resolution to censure Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) earlier this week, accusing him of “conflating innocent Palestinian civilians with Hamas.”
Last week, Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) moved to force a vote on her resolution to censure Greene for controversial comments she has made over the past five years, but later scrapped those plans.
Updated at 11:16 p.m. ET