US House advances effort to censure Rashida Tlaib over Gaza stance

US House advances effort to censure Rashida Tlaib over Gaza stance
The US House of Representatives is going ahead with attempts to to censure Palestinian American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib due to her stance on Israel's war on Gaza.
3 min read
07 November, 2023
Tlaib has claimed she is being targeted simply because she is breaking from the pro-Israel orthodoxy of US Congress [Getty]

The House is headed for a showdown vote Wednesday on whether to punish Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — the only Palestinian American in Congress — for her rhetoric about Israel's war on Gaza.

A vote on whether to censure Tlaib, a punishment one step below expulsion from the House, advanced Tuesday in a procedural vote. Republican Rep. Rich McCormick of Georgia proposed the censure resolution in response to what he calls Tlaib's promotion of antisemitic rhetoric.

“It’s a shame my colleagues are more focused on silencing me than they are on saving lives, as the death toll in Gaza surpasses 10,000,” Tlaib said in a statement. “Many of them have shown me that Palestinian lives simply do not matter to them, but I still do not police their rhetoric or actions.”

The censure push sets the stage for a dramatic vote on the House floor amid the political tensions over the ongoing, deadly bombardment of Gaza by Israel. While the majority of both parties have historically stood firmly on the side of Israel, divisions have emerged in the Democratic Party since the outbreak of the war.

Some on the left have criticized President Joe Biden’s stance and urged him to put conditions on U.S. support for Israel as their aggressive military campaign drives the Palestinian death toll higher by the day.

While the vote against Tlaib will take place against an extraordinary backdrop, the push to censure her is part of a growing pattern in the House.

Censure had long been viewed as a punishment of last resort , to be triggered only for the most egregious wrongdoing. But censure resolutions are quickly becoming routine in the chamber, often wielded in strikingly partisan ways. While the censure itself carries no practical effect, it leaves a historic footnote that marks a lawmaker’s career.

A second resolution by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to censure Tlaib had also been scheduled for a procedural vote late Tuesday night. Both of the censure resolutions are “privileged,” which is a procedural tool lawmakers can use to bypass leadership and committees and force votes in the House.

Tlaib, who is one of two Muslim women in the chamber, has long been the target of Republican attacks for her critical views of Israel's government and its treatment of Palestinians in the region.

That criticism reached new heights after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank, came under heavy criticism after she failed to immediately condemn Hamas after the attack.

Shortly after, Greene, the far-right member from Georgia, introduced a resolution accusing Tlaib of “antisemitic activity” after she voiced concern over America’s continued role in supplying arms to Israel as it engages in military activity that has killed over 10,300 people, including over 4000 children. Greene has in the past been accused of making antisemitic and Islamophobic comments. 

Greene also falsely accused Tlaib of “leading an insurrection” in the Capitol complex when she participated in a pro-Gaza rally organized by Jewish advocacy groups last month.

The House voted against moving forward on that initial censure resolution last week, with 23 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting the table the measure. The broad bipartisan support came after both parties raised concerns about violating Tlaib's First Amendment rights.