Democrats criticize remarks describing the participants as “peaceful protesters.”
Five people died in the January 6 riot at the Capitol Building. At a May hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, several Republicans made comments that downplayed, excused, or denied the violence that occurred.
“It was not an insurrection. We cannot call it that and be truthful,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA9) said. “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures… You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you’d think it was a normal tourist visit.”
(It’s true that some footage showed relative calm and peaceful protest, since not every single moment from every single protester turned violent. But this fails entirely to acknowledge all of the other footage of violence, vandalism, and police officers being crushed and beaten.)
“Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters. The FBI is fishing through homes of veterans and citizens with no criminal records and restricting the liberties of individuals that had never been accused of a crime,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ4) said. “The truth is being censored and covered up. As a result, the DOJ is harassing peaceful patriots across the country.”
(It’s true that the FBI and Department of Justice are looking for Capitol riot participants, more than 500 of whom have been charged, and some of whom had no prior criminal records — but they’re being investigated for supposed participation in illegal activities, as is anybody who’s charged for anything. Nobody has yet been convicted for their actions that day.)
“Another narrative I want to bring up is that the-the-the media claims that the tragic death of Officer Brian Sicknick was a result of pro-Trump mobs bashing his skull with a fire extinguisher, which we all know now did not happen,” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA10) said. “In fact, it was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.”
(This appears to be partially true. The Justice Department originally said that Sicknick died as a result of “the injuries he suffered defending the U.S. Capitol, against the violent mob who stormed it,” though a subsequent autopsy found he actually died of natural causes. One Trump supporter was fatally shot, but she was also attempting to climb through the broken window of a door just a few feet from a Congress member at the time.)
Censure is the second-harshest punishment the House can bestow upon one of its own members, behind only expulsion. In the last 30 years, only one House member has been expelled, for crimes including bribery and obstruction of justice. In the last 30 years, one more House member has been censured, for filing inaccurate financial reports and tax returns.
What the resolutions do
Three House resolutions would censure Reps. Clyde, Gosar, and Hice for their committee remarks.
What supporters say
Supporters argue that representatives must be called out for their comments, in an official action by the House of Representatives itself, to institutionally record their opposition.
“Undermining the seriousness of the insurrection that occurred on January 6 against the United States Capitol and Members of Congress, and dangerously mischaracterizing the events of that day, disrespects the sacrifices made by law enforcement officers on that day and creates danger by emboldening and legitimizing future actors who would attack the United States Capitol in a similar manner,” Rep. Cicilline wrote in the resolution text.
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the censure is nothing more than a partisan attempt to castigate members for First Amendment free speech that Democrats happen to disagree with.
“I by no means support what took place. It was horrible. It should not have happened. It should never happen again. I’ve been as stern as I can be on that position. But an insurrection? No,” Rep. Hice said on The Todd Starnes Show. “It was not an attempt to overthrow the government. There wasn’t even a weapon found inside.”
“The fact is that what I shared does not fit the radical Democratic narrative that they’re trying to portray regarding January 6,” Rep. Hice continued. “And so they’re trying to censure me, simply for speaking the truth and laying out the facts, but it doesn’t fit their narrative.”
“That is just all part of the continued cancel culture that we’re watching unfold before us right now, that if you do not agree with this radical left-wing group, they will come after you to destroy me. So they come out with a resolution to censure me and a couple of other individuals as well.”
Odds of passage
All three resolutions have attracted 20 cosponsors, all Democrats. They all await potential vote in the House Ethics Committee.
Unlike expulsion which must receive a two-thirds vote in the House, censure only requires a majority House vote. Democrats control a House majority, though the relatively low cosponsorship (less than one-tenth of House Democrats have signed on so far) indicate odds of passage are still unlikely. A Senate vote is not required.