WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted Wednesday to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for posting of an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword, an extraordinary rebuke that highlighted the political strains testing Washington and the country.
Calling the video a clear threat to a lawmaker’s life, Democrats argued Gosar’s conduct would not be tolerated in any other workplace — and shouldn’t be in Congress.
The vote to censure Gosar, and also strip him of his committee assignments, was approved by a vote of 223-207, almost entirely along party lines.
Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the vote an “abuse of power” by Democrats to distract from national problems. He said of the censure, a “new standard will continue to be applied in the future,” a signal of potential ramifications for Democratic members in future Congresses.
But Democrats said there was nothing political about it.
“These actions demand a response. We cannot have members joking about murdering each other,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution.”
Ocasio-Cortez herself said in an emotional speech, “Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service. And as leaders, in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues that trickles down to violence in this country. And that is where we must draw the line.”
Unrepentant, Gosar rejected what he called the “mischaracterization” that the cartoon was “dangerous or threatening. It was not.”
“I do not espouse violence toward anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset,” Gosar said.
He compared himself to Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary, celebrated in recent years in a Broadway musical, whose censure vote in the House was defeated: “If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censured by this House, so be it, it is done.”
The decision to censure Gosar , one of the strongest punishments the House can mete out, was just the fourth in nearly 40 years — and just the latest example of the raw tensions that have roiled Congress since the 2020 election and the violent Capitol insurrection that followed.
The decision to move forward with the effort was born out of Democratic frustration with the House GOP, which declined to publicly rebuke Gosar, who has a lengthy history of incendiary remarks.
Key Words (September 2018): Arizona Rep. Gosar’s 6 siblings rewrite the script for negative ads (spoiler: they’re for the other guy)
Instead, GOP leaders have largely ignored his actions and urged their members to vote against the resolution censuring him. They also warned that the effort sets a precedent that could come back to haunt Democrats if they find themselves in the minority.
A dozen or more House Republicans clustered behind Gosar in the well of the chamber in an apparent show of support as Pelosi read aloud the text of the censure motion following the vote.
From the archives (January 2021): Arizona Republicans positioned at center of post-election chaos — with two claimed to have aided Capitol siege planner; pro-Trump activist Ali Alexander has said Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar were among four lawmakers with whom he plotted the U.S. Capitol attack