The House voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) Wednesday, Nov. 17, stripping him of his positions on the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Natural Resources Committee. The practically party-line vote took place after almost four hours of debate. Every single Democrat present voted to censure, while all Republicans but six voted not to. Two GOP representatives, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Liz Cheney of Wyoming, joined the Democrats, while a third voted “present.” Another three didn’t vote at all.
The final count was 223 to 207 in favor. Censures are rare. This was the first in over a decade and only one of two dozen in the history of Congress.
Gosar posted an animated video to various social media platforms that showed him slaying Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) with a sword and moving on to do battle with President Biden. The backlash was immediate and fierce, and the video was quickly removed from social media. House Democrats and their supporters called the video a threat – Gosar argued it wasn’t. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said of the incident:
“When a member uses his or her national platform to encourage violence, tragically, people listen to those words and they may act upon them. Word spoken by elected officials weigh a ton. People hear them very differently.”
The glorification of the suggestion of the killing of a colleague is completely unacceptable,” said Cheney. “And I think that it’s a clear violation of House rules. I think it’s a sad day.”
“The cartoon depicts the symbolic nature of a battle between lawful and unlawful policies and in no way intended to be a targeted attack against Representative Cortez or Mr. Biden,” the Arizona congressman explained.
His argument that it was an allegory of the legislative battle over illegal immigration and the Build Back Better Act fell mostly on deaf ears, however. With a solid hold over the House, the Democrats were almost certain to succeed in their attempt.
This vote doesn’t mean Gosar is out of Congress, but it does mean he loses his spot on any committees, which, of course, means lost influence. Censure is considered the second most severe punishment the House can levy against one of its members, and it only requires a simple majority. While the formal condemnation of a member of Congress is said to negatively affect re-election efforts, it seems unlikely Gosar’s constituents will change their opinion of him simply for being called down by Democrats. Actual expulsion is the harshest punishment – and almost certainly Democratic leaders would have preferred this – but it requires a two-thirds majority, which Democrats simply couldn’t hope for.
~ Read more from James Fite.