What should have been a simple majority-backed vote on a formal condemnation of President Donald Trump for his racist tweets towards House freshmen of color turned into a four-hour-long debate over arcane congressional procedures as GOP leaders used absurd and often hypocritical methods in an attempt to delay the passage of the resolution.

The chaos began when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took to the floor to declare the president’s comments as unacceptable. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets,” Pelosi said from the House floor. “To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.”


Rep. Douglas Collins (R-Georgia) immediately asked Pelosi if she wanted to rephrase her remarks, and when she said no he immediately moved to have them stricken from the Congressional Record, a rare procedure, especially against the Speaker of the House. The basis for Collin’s request was Thomas Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice, written when he presided over the Senate and adopted by the House in 1837. The manual explicitly states that a president cannot be called racist on the House floor, leading to Pelosi’s statement being ruled out of order. During this process Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Missouri) abandoned the House chair in frustration, leaving nobody to preside over the chamber.


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House Democrats quickly countered this by voting to reinstate Pelosi’s speaking privileges and put her words back on the record, and as they control a majority in the chamber they were easily able to win the vote.

The debate over the tweets then resumed, and at 6:51 p.m. the resolution was passed, with four Republican representatives supporting it. The debate was originally scheduled for an hour of floor time to begin at 2:15 p.m.

The Republicans, in their fervor to adhere by Jefferson’s manual, waved the rulebook around, using it to gesticulate and make points. According to Jefferson’s code of conduct, it is also a violation of House rules to use the manual as a prop, meaning that while the Republicans were attempting to get Pelosi on technicalities they themselves were breaking the same rules they purported to uphold.

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