Pandemonium overtook the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon and early evening as a Democrat-led effort to rebuke President Donald Trump over his criticisms of socialist lawmakers backfired badly with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi violating the rules of the chamber.
Amid the chaos, which undercut the Democrats’ message, the Democrat charged with running it literally abandoned the control of the House floor for a moment, something aides say they have never seen before and are unsure if it has ever happened in history–all as the Democrat Party struggled for hours with how to handle clear violations of House rules by their Speaker, Pelosi.
This account of what happened on the floor comes from interviews with members and staff present on the House floor during these proceedings, and from conversations with others in touch with officials present as the Democrats’ big anti-Trump parade was rained out by all the craziness.
It was the first time since the mid 1980s that a sitting House Speaker was successfully challenged like this on the House floor, when then back-bencher Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA)–who would years later become the Speaker–challenged then-Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA) in 1984:
Members were on the floor debating a resolution condemning Trump for his tweets about the so-called “squad,” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
On Sunday, President Trump tweeted:
Trump doubled, then tripled dow in future tweets and a press conference at the White House:
The tweets caused a firestorm in the media and in American politics, leading to a Monday evening press conference where “the squad” responded to Trump:
Pelosi, the Democrat Speaker who had been battling with members of “the squad” before Trump’s tweets as Democrats even leaked internal polling data to Axios showing how toxic Ocasio-Cortez and Omar are to swing voters and came out swinging behind them against Trump–blasting the president, who had unified Pelosi and her radical socialist leftist wing of her conference once and for all.
That was not enough of a response for the Democrats, who then planned a vote on a resolution on the floor of the House on Tuesday to bash Trump even more and officially label him a racist.
The resolution, rolled out early Tuesday, officially called the tweets “racist”:
Trump fired back in tweets of his own in the lead-up to the vote, saying explicitly they were not racist:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and several House Republicans, backed Trump up:
Then, later on Tuesday afternoon, as the Democrats took up the resolution on the floor of the House and began debate on it, pandemonium ensued: The sitting Speaker of the House, Pelosi, joined the debate on the floor on the part of the Democrats, and launched into a tirade in which she accused President Trump of having made “racist” remarks.
House rules in place since the days of former President Thomas Jefferson–who served in the U.S. House of Representatives before he was elected as the third president of the United States–preclude members from calling the president of the United States “racist.” As such, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)–who was leading the GOP side of the debate on the floor–jumped up to challenge Pelosi’s comments.
Specifically, the House rules preclude anyone from calling the president a racist:
At first, Collins offered her the ability to change her remarks–including the claim that Trump made “racist” comments–without a formal challenge using the House rules. She declined, claiming she had cleared her commentary with the House’s parliamentarian before giving the remarks. But that turned out to be untrue.
Collins then made a formal inquiry into whether Pelosi violated the rules of the House, and the business of the U.S. House of Representatives came to a halt for a pause that ended up lasting more than two hours due to a number of hiccups for Democrats over the course of the inquiry.
While lawmakers huddled with the parliamentarian and House officials to question whether Pelosi’s comments violated the House rules, a senior congressional aide on the House floor at the time told Breitbart News that Democrat members of the House were yelling to their colleagues that the rules of the House were irrelevant. “Their members were openly yelling to ignore the guidance of the parliamentarians,” the aide said.
“They’re not your boss,” the aide said one Democrat was shouting about the parliamentarians. “They’re just advisers!”
The process ended up taking more than two hours, an unusually long time that severely cut into the Democrats’ hopes of a big unified message with the passage of their Trump-rebuking resolution:
Pelosi, meanwhile, had left the floor of the House to head over to the U.S. State Department’s religious freedom ministerial, where she delivered a stinging rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of Uyghur Muslims held in camps in China. But the fact that she left the floor of the House while the parliamentarian was determining whether her remarks were in order was itself another violation of the House rules:
As the bedlam ensued, the Democrats’ Speaker pro tempore, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), abandoned the chair–something sources present on the floor, many of whom have worked in the House for many years, told Breitbart News they are unsure has ever happened before in U.S. history.
“The fact that Speaker pro tempore Cleaver refused to read the parliamentary guidance and abandoned the chair was extraordinary,” one senior congressional aide who was on the floor for the proceedings told Breitbart News of Cleaver abandoning the chair. “I have never seen that before.”
It may never have happened in U.S. history until now, when Pelosi violated the rules of the House.
“No one here can ever recall that happening before,” the aide added.
Politico’s Jake Sherman called it “unprecedented”:
Cleaver, sources familiar say, had abandoned the floor when the parliamentarian asked him to read a paper confirming that Pelosi had in fact violated House rules by calling Trump’s tweets racist, and then proceed to call two votes to the floor to clean up her mess before eventually proceeding to the anti-Trump resolution:
When Cleaver abandoned the chair on behalf of the Democrats–one senior Republican aide told Breitbart News it was Democrats “abdicating their duty!”–then Democrats installed another Congressional Black Caucus member, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) as a temporary placeholder into the Speaker pro tempore position until they figured out what to do.
“That caused another 30-minute delay at least,” said one senior congressional aide on the House floor at the time.
McCarthy, the House GOP’s minority leader, had been scheduled to head over to the White House for meetings with President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on immigration–but he called those meetings off to marshal GOP forces against Pelosi on the floor of the House.
Hours into the fight, as Pelosi had long since left the House–again, as mentioned above according to Fox News’ Chad Pergram, in violation of House rules because she was supposed to be present for all of this–House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer came to the floor and took over as the Speaker pro tempore to confirm that Pelosi’s remarks calling Trump’s tweets “racist” were in fact a violation of the rules of the House and were out of order.
So then, after Hoyer came in to control the floor, and ruled per the parliamentarian that Pelosi’s comments were a violation of the House rules–the normal penalty for which would be barring her from speaking on the House floor for the rest of the legislative day–Hoyer set up a series of votes to make sure Pelosi’s comments in violation of the rules remained in the congressional record and that she would pay no penalty for the rules violation and would be able to speak on the House floor if she wanted to again on Tuesday.
On party-line votes, Democrats all voted to put Pelosi above consequences of breaking the rules–and voted to keep her out of order comments in the congressional record.
When the debate for the original resolution condemning Trump resumed, McCarthy took the floor and ripped Pelosi apart in a fiery speech of his own on the House floor:
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) also came to the floor to rip the Democrats for allowing Pelosi to break the rules without consequence:
Several other members joined in criticizing Pelosi for breaking the rules:
As the debate continued, then, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)–who just dropped out of the 2020 presidential race–then made inflammatory comments of his own:
As Collins challenged him, too, just like he did Pelosi, Swalwell and the Democrats stood down–and withdrew the comments to avoid another hours-long battle:
After Swalwell’s screwup, which came in the wake of Pelosi’s massive disaster, the Democrats moved to quickly end the floor debate without even finishing up all their allotted time and moved quickly to the final vote. They pushed the vote on the anti-Trump resolution through on mostly party lines, as only four Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting for it–capping a disastrous day for Democrats in the House.
“The Democrats didn’t use their full time,” a senior congressional aide on the floor told Breitbart News. “They wanted to yield back and avoid further snafus. The day definitely did not go smoothly or as planned for the Democrats.”