Even several Democrats who are personally uncomfortable with Waters’ rhetoric said they would refuse to reprimand her while letting Republicans such as Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) go unpunished for his fire-breathing speech during a Jan. 6 rally hours before a pro-Donald Trump mob attacked the Capitol.
Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), among several Democrats who considered voting to censure her colleague, said she was “deeply concerned about [Waters’] word choice” but ultimately did not think it compared to the conduct of some of her GOP colleagues in recent weeks.
For those Democrats wary of Waters’ remarks, censuring their own colleague while ignoring what’s been said by their GOP counterparts — several of whom are still accused of helping to incite the Capitol riot — would smack of hypocrisy. Then there’s freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has a long history of promoting extremist rhetoric online and was booted off her House committees for endorsing violence against Pelosi.
“I had to weigh it long and hard because of the votes we’ve taken earlier this year,” Wild said, referring to the House votes to strip Greene off her committees. “I don’t think it rises to that level. But it was not an easy vote.”
For many members, the debate over whether to punish Waters, a veteran member of the Congressional Black Caucus, reopened a painful schism over how Congress can proceed to normal business — and relationships — after Jan. 6. The GOP’s censure push quickly turned into a moment of judgment for several other lawmakers who have courted controversy with their conduct since the fraught 2020 election concluded.
And it’s yet another reminder that a Capitol long strained by partisanship remains near a breaking point after the traumatic violence of the insurrection. The attempt to rebuke Waters gave Republicans an opportunity to unify after months spent grappling with their own members’ divisive conduct and waging ugly intraparty battles. During a closed-door party meeting Tuesday morning, McCarthy encouraged his members to back his resolution and argued that Waters has incited violence.
“Censure is appropriate for the actions she has taken,” McCarthy told POLITICO after the meeting. “And we will bring it to the floor and see if Democratic members stand behind the words she said or believe censure is appropriate.”