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Democrats push for rare House censure of Paul Gosar

Only one U.S. House member has been formally censured in the last three decades. Paul Gosar may soon join the ignominious list.

Congress does not often censure sitting lawmakers. In American history, only 23 U.S. House members have faced such a rebuke, and over the last three decades, it's only happened once.

In 2010, the Democratic-led House voted 333 to 79 to formally censure then-Rep. Charlie Rangel. The New York Democrat had been accused of, among other things, misusing his office for fundraising. The Ethics Committee considered 13 charges against him in all, and found him guilty of 11.

Rangel may soon have some company on the ignominious list. NBC News reported:

A group of House Democrats said Wednesday that they plan to introduce a resolution to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for posting an edited animated video that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and attacking President Joe Biden. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a co-chair of the Democratic Women's Caucus, was joined by nine other lawmakers in a joint statement announcing their plans to file the censure resolution Friday.

"For a Member of Congress to post a manipulated video on his social media accounts depicting himself killing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden is a clear cut case for censure," the lawmakers said. "For that Member to post such a video on his official Instagram account and use his official congressional resources in the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials goes beyond the pale."

As regular readers probably know, Twitter added a warning label to the Republican's tweet, describing it as "hateful content." The congressman's office acknowledged that it was responsible for the creation of the video, and though Gosar eventually took down the controversial anime video, his team has repeatedly defended the content as benign.

In a written statement this week, the far-right Arizonan suggested he was the victim of a "gross mischaracterization," adding that his video was "a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy."

Of course, it's not as if the Republican congressman has earned the benefit of the doubt or widespread goodwill. As we've discussed, Gosar is one of Congress' most notorious members, having been condemned for his associations with white nationalists, his praise for insurrectionist rioters, and his anti-election efforts.

Members won't return to Capitol Hill until next week, at which point it will be easier to gauge the level of support for a censure resolution. That said, if Gosar was counting on the controversy to quietly fade away, that's clearly not happening. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff was asked about the controversy yesterday, and said of Gosar, "He has no business being in Congress. He should have never been elected. He doesn't belong there.... Sadly, the Republican conference is now characterized by numerous kooks and dangerous cranks, of which he is one."

A censure resolution, if brought to the floor, could pass by majority vote. (Expelling a member requires a two-thirds majority.) A censure would have no practical effects on the GOP congressman, but it would a permanent scar on Gosar's record.

In the meantime, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has plenty of options for dealing with the controversy, continues to say nothing.

It led the Democratic lawmakers calling for Gosar's censure to add yesterday, "As the events of January 6th have shown, such vicious and vulgar messaging can and does foment actual violence. 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."