House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy prepares to speak to the media after unexpectedly dropping out of consideration to be the next Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2015.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Why the House was so divided on a measure condemning Trump’s racism

The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/16/19, 9:38 PM ET

Democrats look for bipartisanship in condemnation of Trump racism

Rep. Tom Malinowski, author of the newly passed House resolution condemning Donald Trump for his racist remarks against members of Congress, talks with Rachel Maddow about standing up for his colleagues and the Democrats’ outreach to Republican members.
Rep. Tom Malinowski, author of the newly passed House resolution condemning Donald Trump for his racist remarks against members of Congress, talks with Rachel Maddow about standing up for his colleagues and the Democrats’ outreach to Republican members.
There was plenty of drama on the House floor yesterday afternoon, but in the end, there was a straightforward outcome: lawmakers formally condemned Donald Trump’s recent racist outburst.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution on Tuesday night condemning President Donald Trump for his “racist comments” about four Democratic congresswomen of color.

The resolution passed largely along party lines – 235 Democrats joined by only four Republican supported the measure – following hours of back-and-forth and gamesmanship between Republicans and Democrats, which included a GOP objection to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s remarks about Trump and whether she would be allowed to keep speaking on the floor.

The roll call is online here. Note that Democrats were completely united on the symbolic resolution and they were joined by four Republicans: Indiana’s Susan Brooks, Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick, Texas’ Will Hurd, and Michigan’s Fred Upton. The House’s sole independent, Michigan’s Justin Amash – a Republican up until two weeks ago – also supported the measure. (Six Republicans did not vote.)

The procedural drama was over comments House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made on the floor, condemning the president’s racist comments, which drew an objection from Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who pointed to rules limiting the kind of insults members could make against a president.

I’ll spare you the procedural details, but for the GOP minority, this pointless debate over an arcane rule quickly became the most significant aspect of the day’s floor developments. For hours, Republicans insisted what really mattered was Nancy Pelosi’s criticisms of Donald Trump’s racism – not Trump’s racism itself.

All of which reinforced the ridiculousness of the circumstances and the need for the contemporary Republican Party to reevaluate what’s important.

Take House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for example. The top GOP lawmaker in the chamber, a close White House ally, spent the morning insisting that Trump’s racist tweets were not, in fact, racist – at least as far as McCarthy is concerned. By the afternoon, the minority leader’s focus had shifted to Pelosi’s inadvertent transgression regarding rhetorical restrictions on congressional speech.

Or put another way, Kevin McCarthy seemed far more bothered by what Pelosi had said rather than what Trump had said.

Decency and common sense suggest that’s backwards.

But for McCarthy’s conference, it didn’t matter. A total of 191 House Republicans voted on the resolution yesterday and 98% of them rejected it. Their president was poised to be embarrassed by a non-binding measure with no force of law, which led 98% of the House Republican conference to side with Trump, despite the obvious ugliness of his racist missive.

I thought it was at least possible that we’d see the GOP minority play a little game when it came time for the final tally. Maybe, for example, they’d all vote “present.” Maybe much of the Republican conference would simply choose not to vote at all. Maybe they’d vote for the resolution, en masse, not giving Dems the satisfaction of using the debate against them.

But, no. Trump urged his Republican brethren to vote “no,” so 98% of them did exactly that.