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H.Res. 19: Condemning and censuring Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas.


Were his comments implicitly encouraging such violence at the Capitol Building attack, or merely warning of the possibility?

Context

Despite being a Republican himself, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX1) sued Republican Vice President Mike Pence in late December. The lawsuit sought to overturn an 1887 law as unconstitutional, which lays out the official process for Congress counting and certifying the Electoral College results for president.

The vice president presides over the counting in Congress, leading to a few times in American history when the sitting vice president presided over the official counting of their own presidential election loss. The role has always essentially been ceremonial, but Rep. Gohmert’s lawsuit contended that the vice president has the power to actually determine which states’ electors will officially count. Under this legal theory, Pence could choose to dismiss Joe Biden’s apparent Electoral College victory and unilaterally declare Donald Trump the victor instead.

Trump-appointed Texas federal district court judge Jeremy D. Kernodle dismissed the lawsuit.

In an interview on the conservative cable news network Newsmax, Gohmert said, “Bottom line is, the court is saying we’re not going to touch this. You have no remedy. Basically, in effect, the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter].”

The implication that Trump supporters would turn violent as a result of the court’s dismissal was proven accurate, when Trump supporters violently attacked the Capitol Building last week, resulting in five deaths.

What the resolution does

A new resolution would officially censure Louie Gohmert for his comments. Censure is the second-harshest punishment the House can bestow, behind only expulsion.

It was introduced in the House on January 5 as resolution number H.Res. 19, by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL23). The resolution was actually introduced one day prior to the violent attack on the Capitol Building.

What supporters say

Supporters argue that Gohmert’s remark was inflammatory and completely inappropriate for a sitting federal lawmaker.

“When Rep. Gohmert threatens violence in the streets over the results of a fair, settled election, he inflames national divisions for political gain & puts lives at risk,” Rep. Wasserman Schultz tweeted. “As a Congresswoman, I cannot allow his incendiary rhetoric to go w/out consequence.”

What opponents say

Rep. Gohmert says his comment wasn’t encouraging violence, but instead warning of its potential occurrence — a prediction, rather than a provocation.

“I have not encouraged and unequivocally do not advocate for violence,” Rep. Gohmert clarified in public comments after backlash to his original Newsmax remark. “I have long advocated for following the teachings and example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of peaceful protest.”

“That does not keep me from recognizing what lies ahead when institutions created by a self-governing people to peacefully resolve their disputes hide from their responsibility,” Rep. Gohmert continued. “Violence is not the answer. The appropriate answer is courts and self-governing bodies resolving disputes as intended.”

Courts dismiss lawsuits all the time — by some estimates, as much as 97 percent of the time. And the Trump Campaign was 1 for 62 in its legal attempts to change the outcome of the election, often for the same reason that Gohmert’s suit was dismissed.

Odds of passage

The resolution has not yet attracted any cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the House Ethics Committee.

House censure is extremely rare, occurring only once in the past 40 years. The last such occurrence was given to former Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY15), for several actions including filing inaccurate tax returns and financial reports.

Last updated Jan 19, 2021. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 5, 2021.


This resolution censures Representative Louie Gohmert for his comments related to overturning the 2020 presidential election.