Key top Democrats are remaining silent on controversial anti-Israel comments from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., including her trumpeting of the antisemitic rallying cry, ‘from the river to the sea,’ before a potential vote on the congresswoman’s censure that could come as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., all refused to answer questions from Fox specifically on Tlaib’s ‘from the river to the sea’ comments.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., meanwhile, was noncommittal Tuesday when asked if she’ll vote for the censure resolutions brought by Republicans against Tlaib.
‘I’m just gonna see how things play out,’ she said.
Speaking with reporters outside House Democrats’ closed door conference meeting Tuesday, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., addressed the back-and-forth of censure resolutions in Congress and Tlaib defending the use of the phrase ‘from the river to the sea.’
Hoyer said the use of censure resolutions to sanction members for speech is at odds with the First Amendment. But he added that he ‘violently’ disagrees with Tlaib’s use of the phrase.
Hoyer characterized ‘from the river to the sea’ as, ‘the Arab community, not just the Palestinian community, has been using that phrase from 1948 to today to express their intention to obliterate the State of Israel, established by the United Nations as a place of sanctuary and security and freedom for the Jewish people.’
Tlaib infamously tripled down on allegations that an Israeli airstrike was responsible for an explosion at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza said to have killed hundreds, ignoring Israeli and U.S. intelligence, cited by President Biden himself while visiting the Jewish state, supporting that it was actually a misfired rocket by the armed group Palestinian Islamic Jihad behind the blast.
‘As I said, the censure resolutions are not appropriate,’ Hoyer said Tuesday. ‘Instances where people say things they don’t, that we don’t agree with. Now, on the other hand, when a member threatens the life of another member, when a member… says I’m their worst nightmare, that’s a different story. That’s threatening people. It’s not expressing opinions, it’s threatening people.’
A senior House Democrat leadership source tells Fox News that Democrats are not encouraging a vote either way on a Democratic resolution to sanction Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., over his comments likening Palestinian civilians to Nazis. Another senior House Democratic leadership source says the effort to sanction Mast will disappear if the House tables the resolution to censure Tlaib.
Hoyer pointed to the speech given by Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., on the House Floor Tuesday on ‘the fact that the First Amendment is an extraordinarily unique provision in the world.’
‘I’m profoundly disturbed that this House has gotten into a frenzy of censure resolutions to censure the speech of members of Congress,’ Himes said, addressing House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., ‘It’s the second clause of the First Amendment to our Constitution that says that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.’
‘I don’t much like any of the speech that the members who are accused of – foul speech – have engaged in,’ he continued. ‘But the test of our commitment to freedom of expression is not how hard we fight in a moment for the rights of those that we agree with. The test is whether we’re willing to stand up for freedom of expression for somebody with whom we don’t agree.’
‘It is time for us to stop trying to punish each other for the things that we say, no matter how abhorrent,’ Himes said. ‘Mr. Speaker, I believe that we’re more than just representatives. If we were just representatives, we would just go back to our constituents and bring their ideas here. We are stewards of this institution, which is why we take an oath to the Constitution. If you take seriously your role as a steward of this institution, vote to table every one of these obnoxious motions to censure.’
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Daniel Scully contributed to this report.