When Donald Trump tweeted that four minority congresswomen, all American citizens and three natural born, should "go back to" their home countries, news outlets struggled to work around using the word "racist." Apparently the U.S. House of Representatives has a somewhat similar problem. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced a motion to rebuke the president's comments. The resolution "strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color," and is mostly symbolic. Still, chaos ensued after Pelosi said, "Every member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us to condemn the president’s racist tweets."
Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia, asked Pelosi if she wanted to "rephrase that comment" and, no, she did not. So Collins moved that her words be stricken from the record, or "taken down" in Congress legalese. For more than an hour, the chamber debated whether or not the speaker had violated House decorum by using the word "racist," thanks to rules that specifically bar calling a president racist.
Talking to the Washington Post, Eric Schickler, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, explained the rule is a holdover from British parliamentary rules. "In Britain, it was out of order to speak in parliament to attack the king, to attack the crown directly," he said. He also described it as another example of "procedural warfare" the parties are using to distract from and derail issues at hand.
Things got so heated on Tuesday that, once it became clear that the motion against Pelosi was likely to succeed on parliamentary grounds, Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat who was serving as chair during the debate, said, "We don't ever, ever want to pass up an opportunity, it seems, to escalate. And that's what this is. I dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there was any unfairness. But unfairness is not enough, because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair." And with that, he put down the gavel, and walked away.
At another point, Democrat Eric Swalwell from California began listing many of Trump's most high-profile racist comments, and Collins, again, protested. This time though, he wasn't taking issue with the word "racist," which Swalwell repeated a lot, but with the use of the word "shithole," which the president used to describe Haiti and other majority black countries in Africa. Neither Collins nor any other Republicans moved to enforce the "no one say 'racist'" rule against Swalwell.
House majority leader Steny Hoyer was the one to finally announce that, since under House rules the word "racist" is an insult, Pelosi's words would be struck from the record. He said, "The words of the gentlewoman from California contain an accusation of racist behavior on the part of the president. As memorialized in Deschler’s precedents Chapter 29, Section 65.6, characterizing an action as racist is not in order."
After that, the House passed the resolution condemning Trump's racist tweets, former GOP congressman Justin Amash and four current Republicans—Susan Brooks of Indiana, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd of Texas, and Fred Upton of Michigan, all either retiring or in vulnerable districts—siding with Democrats.
Originally Appeared on GQ