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Top Republicans Blame 'Socialist Colleagues' To Defend Trump's Racist Tweets

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/16/2019 Ramsey Touchberry
Kevin McCarthy wearing a suit and tie: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) listens to House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) during a news conference following a caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 13 in Washington, DC. © Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) listens to House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) during a news conference following a caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 13 in Washington, DC.

Top Republican leaders in the House came to the defense of President Donald Trump Tuesday, instead choosing to lambast their Democratic counterparts as "socialists" who were playing political games in the wake of the president doubling down on his racist tweets against minority congresswomen.

The failure to condemn Trump was in contrast to some GOP members of Congress but was largely in step with the party as a whole and came just hours before the House was set to vote on a resolution that would formally condemn the nation's top leader for telling four progressive lawmakers, three of whom were born in the U.S. and all of who are American citizens, to "go back" to the "crime infested places" they "came from."

"I believe this is about ideology. This is about socialism vs. freedom," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, told reporters. "Let's not be false about what is happening here today. This is all about politics and beliefs of ideologies of what individuals have."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, later labeled those comments as "baloney."

The four minority congresswomen whom Trump targeted were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts—all outspoken critics of the president who represent the caucus' left-wing. They've been dubbed the nickname "The Squad," a term they've come to embrace.

McCarthy further said he would push Republicans not to support the resolution, which "strongly condemns President Donald Trump's racist comments." Some Republicans have already signaled they may vote in favor of it based on their public condemnation of Trump's remarks. However, the number is expected to be limited.

Several Republicans, including Will Hurd of Texas and the chamber's lone black GOP member, Chip Roy of Texas and Paul Mitchell of Michigan, labeled Trump's racist tweets as "racist" and "xenophobic," "wrong" and "beneath leaders," respectively.

"This is, I hope, one where we will get Republican support," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday morning, according to an aide in the room. "If they can't support condemning the words of the President, well that's a message in and of itself."

Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, a Democrat, urged caution to his colleagues during the caucus meeting, according to the aide. He said for members to pick their words carefully when speaking on the House floor about the resolution or Trump's racist remarks, for fear of breaking formal rules and providing political ammo to Republicans. 

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who flanked McCarthy at a press conference, also tried to make socialism the brunt of the issue.

"I want to make absolutely clear that our opposition to our socialist colleagues has absolutely nothing to do with their gender, with their religion or with their race," said Cheney. "It has to do with the content of their policies. They're wrong when they attempt to impose the fraud of socialism on the American people."

Scalise compared how Democrats have handled Trump to how he believes Republicans handled President Barack Obama.

"As [Cheney] laid out, there a lot of policies that we had disagreements on with Speaker Pelosi and her socialist Democrats, just like we had disagreements with a lot of Barack Obama's policies," Scalise said. "But we never disrespected the office. I called him president of the United States, as we all did."

Trump did not back down Tuesday morning from his controversial remarks, saying in a series of tweets that his prior statements on the social media platform "were NOT Racist." He further urged members of his party to vote against the resolution.

"I don't have a Racist bone in my body!" Trump tweeted. "The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show 'weakness' and fall into their trap."

Ahead of the resolution vote, some progressive and minority members believed did not go far enough. Rather, they said that a censure vote should occur, which would be a step further than a resolution, despite carrying no legal consequences with it.

Democratic leadership pushed back against censuring the president. Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries said a resolution was the "right approach to take at this moment."

"There will be accountability measures that we'll have to consider as we move forward," Jeffries added. 

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