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Updated Nov 7, 2023, 11:08pm EST
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Rep. Rashida Tlaib has been censured over Israel criticism

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The News

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only Palestinian American in Congress, over her criticism of the Israeli government following Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7.

The legislation penalizing the Democrat received a vote of 234-188 on Tuesday night, with 22 Democrats voting to censure their colleague. The vote was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but House Republicans moved it to Tuesday night. Tlaib becomes the 26th House member to be censured.

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The resolution, authored by Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), noted that Tlaib would be censured for “promoting false narratives” about Hamas’ attack on Israel and “for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) pulled her own resolution to censure Tlaib on Tuesday night ahead of the vote, telling reporters, “I’m not gonna be part of a competing censure resolution because leadership failed to organize it… She’s being censured, that’s what I set out to do.”

In a statement before the vote, Tlaib said, “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. 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.”

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A censure measure is more symbolic and doesn’t have any real repercussions, except it “carries the stigma of being disciplined by a lawmaker’s colleagues,” The Hill writes. Tlaib’s comments have further divided Democrats’ response to the conflict, NBC News reports, with many criticizing Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza and calling for a humanitarian pause, but only a few like Tlaib urging a ceasefire. Several Democrats had also joined Republicans in criticizing Tlaib’s social media post showing a video with protesters chanting “from the river to the sea” — a phrase many view as an antisemitic call for the elimination of Israel. The 22 Democrats who voted to censure their own party member on Tuesday included Florida’s Jared Moskowitz who said ahead of the vote: “I just don’t think we should be calling for the removal of a country, one of our allies. Listen, we have an absolute freedom of speech. Any member could say whatever they want. ... But also members collectively as a body can say we disagree with what you’re saying.”

Censures were once rare, but are now “booming” as they’re being weaponized largely by rightwing Republican lawmakers as “partisan cudgels” to attack other members of Congress, writes The Washington Post columnist Philip Bump. Between 1980 and 2019 there were nine censure-related motions, he notes, while there have been 35 since 2020 to now. Members are usually censured over violating the law or behaving in a way unbecoming of the chamber, NBC News reported. Ohio’s William Stanbery was the first representative to be censured in 1832 for insulting the Speaker of the House. Since then the House has censured members 25 times and these are usually seen as public reprimands, one step below expulsion. Bump predicts there will be more such resolutions, writing, “Like threats to impeach, censure motions are a way to escalate the sense of anger that drives the fundraising and attention that fuel the political economy. So they keep coming.”

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