House to vote on removing Gosar from committees, censuring him over violent video

Arizona Republican has not publicly apologized for the video

The House will vote Wednesday on whether to censure Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and strip him of his committee assignments. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The House will vote Wednesday on whether to censure Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and strip him of his committee assignments. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 16, 2021 at 8:00pm

House Democrats are planning Wednesday to censure Arizona Republican Paul Gosar and remove him from both committees on which he serves for posting an animated video of him killing Democratic colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and attacking President Joe Biden with swords.

“What we’re saying here is someone should not have the privilege of being on a committee if they essentially threaten somebody else’s life,” House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern said Tuesday as the panel considered the rule for the resolution to censure Gosar.

“At some point, you have to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” the Massachusetts Democrat added.

House Rules ranking member Tom Cole of Oklahoma and other Republicans said that the matter should have first gone through the Ethics Committee and that a majority party taking action to remove a member of the minority party from a committee sets a bad precedent that could be used against Democrats when Republicans hold the majority. Cole said that he doesn’t approve of the video but that Gosar addressed the matter with the GOP Conference.

“And frankly, [House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy] did take action. He did contact Mr. Gosar. The video did come down. There was a statement repudiating violence,” Cole said, arguing that Gosar should have had the opportunity to go before the Ethics panel.

The rule was approved on a party-line 9-4 vote. Members will debate the matter for an hour Wednesday, with equal time for both sides.

The move comes more than a week after Gosar posted the video on his official Twitter account on Nov. 7 and amid inaction in the public space from McCarthy and the rest of his leadership team. 

At a House GOP Conference meeting Tuesday morning, Gosar spoke for a few minutes, telling his colleagues that he never intended to espouse violence and that the video was taken down, according to a source present in the room. Attendees felt Gosar took the matter seriously, and members are ready to move on, the person said.

When approached for comment about the video Tuesday, Gosar repeatedly said, “I’m not talking.” When asked if he was sorry for posting the video, he did not answer as he accelerated up a set of stairs. In a Nov. 9 statement, Gosar did not apologize and said the video, which appeared on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, had been mischaracterized.

The resolution, known as H Res 789, requires a simple majority to censure Gosar and strip him of his committee slots on the Oversight and Reform and Natural Resources panels. Ocasio-Cortez, the subject of Gosar’s violent video, serves on the Oversight Committee. Democrats have a slim majority in the House, and the measure is expected to pass.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced the resolution, which has over 60 Democratic co-sponsors, including Reps. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Brenda Lawrence of Michigan, and Sylvia R. Garcia and Veronica Escobar of Texas.

“As the events of January 6th have shown, such vicious and vulgar messaging can and does foment actual violence,” the Democratic lawmakers said in a statement last week. “Violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted. Minority Leader McCarthy’s silence is tacit approval and just as dangerous.”

Earlier this year, House Democrats voted to remove Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene from both of her committees, for her online support of violence against Democrats, promotion of racist and anti-Semitic views, and sympathy expressed toward an idea that a 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a “false flag” operation. Greene on Monday sent out an email criticizing Democrats and touting a giveaway for a .50-caliber rifle.

In 2019, McCarthy took quick action to strip Iowa Rep. Steve King of his committee assignments after he made comments sympathetic to white supremacy.

Censure is essentially a public shaming and would require Gosar to stand in the well of the House chamber while Speaker Nancy Pelosi reads the resolution. The last member to get this rare form of discipline was New York Democrat Charles B. Rangel, who was censured in 2010 for a variety of ethics violations.

Republicans, with some exceptions, have been hesitant to publicly condemn the video Gosar posted.

When asked whether he should be formally disciplined by censure, New Jersey Rep. Christopher H. Smith said, “No comment at this point.” Smith didn’t answer a question about whether he was satisfied by Gosar’s words at the GOP Conference meeting. 

Texas Rep. Michael C. Burgess said he had to watch the video “several times before I got the same impression that everyone’s been talking about.”

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck said he had not seen the video in question.

“I’ve heard descriptions of it, but I have not seen the video. … Some people think it’s more clear than other people,” he said.

Democrats have not held back in their criticism of the video.

“I have never, in 40 years, seen such a vile, hateful, outrageous, dangerous, and inciting to violence against a colleague. Never,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said.

Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes said Gosar’s action was “profoundly unbecoming an elected member of Congress.”

“He should be censured. He’s pushing in the direction of fomenting violence. You got to remember when you put that kind of stuff up what the least responsible person out there is going to take from it, and there are some pretty violently inclined irresponsible people out there,” he said.

When asked if Gosar should be censured and stripped of his committee assignments, Jan. 6 select committee Chairperson Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said, “Absolutely.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.