The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Rep. Pressley introduces resolution to condemn Rep. Boebert

Nearly a dozen House liberals want Democratic leadership to act against the Colorado Republican after her anti-Muslim remarks

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) at an August 2020 hearing. (Tom Williams/Pool/AP)

Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced a resolution Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert of her committee assignments for repeatedly making anti-Muslim remarks aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, hoping the action forces House Democratic leadership to punish the lawmaker before the end of the year.

The resolution from Pressley (D-Mass), first obtained by The Washington Post, comes amid mounting pressure by House Democrats for Boebert (R-Colo.) to be reprimanded for Islamophobic attacks that surfaced in a video in which Boebert, speaking at an event in her district over Thanksgiving break, likens Omar (D-Minn.) to a suicide bomber.

On Tuesday, MSNBC unearthed another video of Boebert in which she called Omar “a terrorist” and accused her of praising terrorists. Other staunch allies of former president Donald Trump in the House, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), have repeatedly targeted members of the liberal “Squad” by falsely calling them terrorist sympathizers.

“When she said that, she was evoking violence on Muslims all across our country,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Muslim, said between tears during a news conference Wednesday to introduce the resolution stripping Boebert of her committee assignments. “We shouldn’t have to beg and urge Republicans to do what’s right here. They have Muslims in their communities. I know they do.”

Roughly three dozen House Democrats — a majority of them liberals, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) — have co-sponsored the resolution. Pressley told reporters Wednesday there is “growing momentum” among Democrats to support the resolution.

House GOP leaders face calls to confront Islamophobia among their ranks

“Without meaningful accountability for that Member’s actions, we risk normalizing this behavior and endangering the lives of our Muslim colleagues, Muslim staffers and every Muslim who calls America home,” Pressley said in a statement. “The House must unequivocally condemn this incendiary rhetoric and immediately pass this resolution. How we respond in moments like these will have lasting impacts, and history will remember us for it.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said on Dec. 5, she expected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to take "decisive action" against Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). (Video: The Washington Post)

It is unclear whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be persuaded to take action after the resolution’s introduction. The resolution is not considered “privileged,” meaning leadership is not required to immediately consider it on the floor.

During her weekly news conference Wednesday, Pelosi said she did not want to linger on the question, reiterating that it is up to Republican leaders to punish the “disgraceful, unacceptable behavior of their members,” especially as Democrats try to pass large-scale legislative packages before year’s end.

“When I’m ready to announce that, I’ll let you know,” Pelosi said. “How we deal with addressing the fear that they have instilled with their Islamophobia and the rest is, hopefully, something we can do in a bipartisan way.”

Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) were the only Republicans who voted in support of stripping Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) of his committee assignments for posting an anime video depicting him killing Ocasio-Cortez and swinging swords at President Biden. Several rank-and-file Republicans indicated that they would have supported censure — but not helping Democrats establish a precedent allowing the party in control of the House to dictate to the minority.

Moreover, Republican leaders did not seem to heed the calls by Democratic leaders to hold their own to account.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) echoed Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in his defense of Boebert, suggesting that Republicans would not take action, given that the freshman congresswoman apologized publicly in a tweet.

“I think when a member apologizes, you ought to respect and appreciate that and call for a higher standard, but it starts with a member themselves acknowledging they said something they shouldn’t and then move on,” Scalise said. “The fact [is] that on the Democrats’ side, they want to only go after Republicans. They don’t even ask their own members to apologize for things that were said, let alone go after their own members.”

The hesitancy to condemn Boebert, after Democrats swiftly censured and removed Gosar from his committee assignments, has motivated Omar’s allies to escalate their demands to also punish Boebert.

“In this moment, we’re looking for equitable outrage,” Pressley said.

Pressed on why Democratic leaders have not moved as quickly to punish Boebert, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he expects the House to hold her accountable, but he did not mention how or when.

“I don’t believe there’s any hesitancy. There are active discussions on the best way to proceed,” said Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “At some point, I think the House, as a whole, is going to have to act.”

Pressley agreed, telling reporters, “I’m confident there will be action taken, and there must because inaction is to be complicit in Islamophobia.”

An aide familiar with a meeting last week between Pelosi and Omar said the speaker expressed confidence that the House would address Boebert’s remarks in some way. That led Omar to tell CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend that she was “very confident” that Pelosi would take action against Boebert.

However, there has been no reassurance since from Democratic leaders that the House will act before lawmakers head home for the holidays. Privately, some Democratic aides say punishing Boebert would only establish a messy precedent that could force Democrats to censure members every time they make false, racist or cruel statements.

There is also an acknowledgment that punishing Republicans may only embolden some of them, helping them fundraise with their base. Even so, members of the group backing the resolution hope leadership will listen to them and act.

“When you endanger the life of another colleague, then you forfeit your right to have the significant responsibility of making policy in this body,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Wednesday. “No matter how much money she might raise off of it or beat her chest over how much attention she’s getting, there’s no way that any member wants to be deprived of their ability to serve on committees and make policies.”