House Democrats are increasingly alarmed by Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s critical comments about Israel, but so far they have stopped short of saying the Michigan Democrat deserved to be censored for its rhetoric.
Tlaïb, the only Palestinian American member of Congress and a vocal critic of Israel, upset his colleagues with his recent use of an anti-Israeli chant “from the river to the sea” in a video accusing President Joe Biden of supporting a Palestinian “genocide.” While the phrase is seen by many as a call for Jewish genocide in Israel and has been used by Hamas as a rallying cry, Tlaib defended » her comments, saying she sees the phrase as “an ambitious call for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hatred.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries responded “of course yes” when asked by CNN if he had any concerns about Tlaib’s use of the anti-Israel chant. But Jeffries did not respond when asked if he had raised these concerns with the congresswoman.
Rep. Haley Stevens, a fellow Michigan Democrat, said she strongly disagreed with Tlaib’s use of the phrase, but said she also didn’t like the idea of censorship.
Two Republican lawmakers introduced separate resolutions this week to censure Tlaib, after a a similar effort failed last week. GOP leadership has two days to schedule a vote on the measures.
“I’ve been very cautious, partly because our Michigan delegation is so small and we work together,” Stevens told CNN. “I don’t want my job to be to monitor or respond to anyone’s statements.”
Rep. Debbie Dingell, also a Michigan Democrat, echoed a similar sentiment, saying she was uncomfortable with Tlaib’s rhetoric but did not think the censure resolutions were “helpful to anyone be it, on both sides.”
“I wouldn’t use that expression. … But freedom of expression is a fundamental right,” she told reporters.
Dingell then became emotional as she spoke of the fear her Jewish and Muslim constituents have felt since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas. “The hatred we are seeing scares me,” she said. “The death threats circulating, the division within communities, this is not acceptable.”
Dingell said she also faced threats because of her stance on the war.
“I received a threat yesterday. I was threatened,” she said. “Because there is enormous pressure on every single person here to call for a ceasefire.”
Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider is circulating a statement condemning Tlaib’s recent comments, but stopped short of saying he supports a censure resolution.
“People have a right to speak and the statement is not directed at anyone in particular,” the Illinois lawmaker told CNN.
Tlaib – who avoided reporters at the Capitol on Monday – also has support from fellow progressives, known as the “Squad.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told CNN: “We need to get out of this spiral of using these censorship resolutions to target members in a constant back and forth instead of actually legislating.” »
Meanwhile, there are signs that Republican Party support for censuring Tlaib is growing.
Last week, 23 House Republicans opposed a resolution to censure Tlaib led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. But the Georgia Republican tweaked her language slightly to exclude characterizing a recent pro-Palestinian protest at the Capitol as an “insurrection,” instead calling it an “unlawful occupation.”
And Republican Rep. Richard McCormick of Georgia, who opposed Greene’s resolution, filed his own, more narrowly tailored resolution to censure Tlaib, which included Tlaib’s most recent anti-Israel comments.
Republican Rep. Chip Roy, who also opposed Greene’s resolution, has been open to supporting one of the new censure resolutions if handled the right way, telling CNN: “These are not in the right direction.”
The Texas Republican voted against Greene’s censure resolution against Tlaib last week because he said it was a “mistake” to compare the protest calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas insurrection at the U.S. Capitol complex on January 6, 2021.
But at least one Republican said he was still opposed to censuring Tlaib: the Colorado representative. Ken Buck.
Tlaib’s proposed censure has sparked retaliatory exchanges among lawmakers seeking to target each other across the aisle. Last week, Democratic Rep. Becca Balint of Vermont introduced, but later withdrew, a resolution to censure Greene for her history of inflammatory remarks.
And on Monday, California Rep. Sara Jacobs, a Jewish Democrat, filed a censure resolution against Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida for his comments comparing Palestinian civilians to Nazi civilians.