Upton, Amash join House Dems to condemn 'racist' Trump tweets

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
From left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., respond to remarks by President Donald Trump after his call for the four Democratic congresswomen to go back to their "broken" countries, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 15, 2019. All are American citizens and three of the four were born in the U.S.

Washington — House Democrats pushed through a resolution Tuesday evening condemning President Donald Trump’s tweets that urged four Democratic congresswomen of color to return to their countries, including Detroit-born Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

The vote was 240-187, with Michigan's seven Democrats and GOP Rep. Fred Upton in support. Michigan's five other Republicans dissented. 

Rep. Justin Amash, a Trump critic who left the GOP to be an independent this month, also voted yes on the resolution after describing the president's comments as "racist and disgusting."

Trump said Tuesday that his remarks “were NOT Racist” and had called for Republican lawmakers to stand by him in Tuesday's vote. 

Tlaib spoke on the House floor in support of the resolution, saying she has never been more proud to be the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. 

She is also proud "to have grown up in the city that birthed movements that fought and won against racism and inequality in our country. A city that taught me to never back down, to speak up when I see injustice, and one that elected the first of two Muslim women serving in the United States Congress," Tlaib said, referring to her own election. 

"We cannot allow anyone, especially the president of the United States, to erode our core American values. I urge my colleagues to please choose our country, choose the American people and to support this resolution." 

Upton was one of four House Republicans to vote yes Tuesday after saying he was "appalled" by Trump's tweets. 

"Today’s resolution was targeted at the specific words that frankly are not acceptable from a leader in any work place large or small. If we’re going to bring civility back to the center of our politics, we must speak out against inflammatory rhetoric from anyone in any party anytime it happens," Upton said on Twitter after the vote.

"America embraces diversity, and that must continue. To quote President Reagan, 'Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we're a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier...If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”

GOP Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, had also criticized Trump’s language, saying his remarks “are beneath leaders.”

Mitchell said he voted against Tuesday’s resolution as “yet another partisan action that does not move the ball forward.”

“I have expressed directly to the White House my concerns that inflammatory statements targeting anyone on the basis of their ethnicity or origin are wrong. While I disagree with the radical left on most everything, we must argue the merits of one’s policies without attacking his or her identity,” said Mitchell a member of Republican leadership.

“Many of my colleagues and I have already made our positions clear on the comments made, and believe that instead of partisan resolutions, we should be voting on policies that help the American people.”

The House resolution condemned Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

Trump tweeted Tuesday that, "I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!"

"The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show “weakness” and fall into their trap," Trump wrote.

"This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country. Get a list of the HORRIBLE things they have said."

Trump this week has doubled down on his attacks on the four freshman House members known as the squad, including Tlaib and Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — each of whom has called for the president’s impeachment.

Trump tweeted Sunday that the  "‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe" should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

All of the four women are U.S. citizens, and three of the four were born in the United States. Omar is a refugee from Somalia who came to the United States at age 12. 

“If you hate our Country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

Tlaib told The Detroit News on Monday that, "it just makes me want to fight harder."

"This is a predominantly non-Muslim community that I think knew exactly what they were doing when they elected me," said Tlaib, referring to the 13th Congressional District that includes predominantly African American Detroit.

"My district loves that I am unapologetically the way I am.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

Omar has come under fire for her stances on U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East and has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks. She denies the comments were anti-Semitic, but they prompted the U.S. House of Representatives to approve a resolution condemning hate speech against all groups but not Omar specifically.

Democrats have rallied around the squad in recent days, with Michigan members calling Trump's words "hate" and "divisive rhetoric." 

“I am absolutely appalled at the behavior of the person who currently occupies the Oval Office. His condescending, racist, and xenophobic comments have no place in a civilized society," said Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield.

"This president’s statements are particularly hurtful to me as an African-American woman. I have been a victim of those perceived stereotypes that are incurred by all black people living in America. I have been told to 'go home,' though I was born in Detroit and I am a fifth-generation American."

In addition to Mitchell and Upton, Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, had denounced Trump's tweets Monday. He voted no on Tuesday's resolution. 

"America needs less politics and more solutions. In my view, the past six months in the House have been more about scoring political points and performing political theater than solving problems," Huizenga said in a statement. 

"I view this resolution as a continuation of that flawed behavior which is why I voted against it.  Everyone needs to come to the table and get to work on the issues West Michigan and the nation expect Congress to address.”

Linda Lee Tarver, president of the Republican Women's Federation of Michigan, said the "liberal left" called Trump a racist even before his election.

“Fast forward, today, President Trump with the lowest female, and African American and Hispanic unemployment rate is the lowest ever,” said Carver, who is African American and co-chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in Michigan.

“My uncle was lynched by the KKK — that was racist. I was called a n----- by my middle school gym teacher — that was racist. My list can go on and on,” Tarver added.

“True racism is Democrats' refusal to educate a majority of black children in Detroit and Benton Harbor and all other liberal-led urban area in Michigan — and yes, in Congresswoman Tlaib's neighborhood."