WASHINGTON – Minnesotans in the U.S. House split along party lines in the vote denouncing President Donald Trump over tweets and comments widely seen as racist that singled out U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and three congressional representatives who are women of color.
Omar, a freshman lawmaker from Minneapolis, has found herself at the center of an escalating skirmish between the Republican White House and House Democrats. It grew from a series of tweets by Trump over the weekend, in which he said the four liberal congresswomen, who have dubbed themselves “the Squad,” should go back to their ancestral countries “and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Democrats quickly introduced a resolution condemning the president, which led to a tumultuous afternoon debate Tuesday.
All three Republicans in Minnesota’s delegation — Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn — opposed the resolution. “I did not run for Congress to get distracted by the name-calling happening on both sides of the aisle,” Stauber said in a statement. “I was elected to Congress to find solutions to the most pressing issues facing Minnesotans.”
Emmer said in a statement that the vote marked “the second time in six months House Democrats are considering legislation to condemn the remarks of elected officials rather than govern … This back-and-forth is about politics, nothing more, and I hope Congress will start to worry less about ‘tweets’ and more about actual solutions to improve the lives of Americans.”
All three have been strong Trump supporters.
Minnesota Democrats in the U.S. House have largely defended Omar against the president’s attacks. All five voted in favor of the resolution, including Collin Peterson, whose district went heavily for Trump in 2016.
Among Trump’s strongest critics in the delegation is St. Paul Democrat Betty McCollum, who denounced him in a statement Monday.
“This weekend and today, the president has once again been a provocateur with his racist, bigoted, and misogynistic language,” McCollum said. “The American people have heard him speak like this time and time again. He does this to distract from his administration’s corruption and incompetence.”
Trump insisted Tuesday in a tweet that his comments suggesting that the congresswomen leave for other countries “were NOT Racist.” He also called on fellow Republicans to “not show weakness” and oppose the House resolution condemning his words.
“I don’t have a racist bone in my body!” he tweeted.
House Democrats, meanwhile, rallied around Omar and her three colleagues.
“His comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting, and his comments are racist,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech. She said Trump’s words “are not only divisive and dangerous, but have legitimized fear and hatred of immigrants, of new Americans and people of color.”
Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin Republican, defended Trump and criticized his Democratic colleagues as anti-American. “In those tweets, I see nothing that references anyone’s race,” Duffy said. “I want immigrants to come to this country. But if you come to this country, shouldn’t you love this country?”
Omar and her colleagues have taken strong issue with suggestions that they are somehow anti-American simply because they disagree with the actions of the Trump administration.
In the days since the original tweets, Trump has not backed down, repeating variations on his original remark and particularly singling out Omar. Of the group, which also includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, only Omar was not born in the United States. A native of Somalia, she emigrated to the U.S. as a child and became a citizen.
“Donald Trump is lashing out at me because he wants to divide our country,” Omar tweeted Tuesday. “We will not allow his latest attacks to distract us from working to ensure a brighter future for all.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland noted that his own father was born in Denmark.
“The president of the United States did not tell me, go back to Denmark,” Hoyer said. Of Omar, Hoyer said: “She endured hardships, and arrived on our shores seeking freedom, safety and opportunity. She is an American citizen, who chose to give back to her country through public service.”