Escalating tensions on Capitol Hill erupted into a floor fight in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke in favor of a resolution condemning “racist” comments by President Trump — and Pelosi’s words were eventually ruled out of order by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, affirming a decision from the House parliamentarian.
“The words used by the gentlewoman from California contained an accusation of racist behavior on the part of the President,” Hoyer said, in a decision that technically banned Pelosi from speaking on the House floor for a brief period of time. “The words should not be used in debate.”
The Democrat-controlled House then voted along party lines not to strike Pelosi’s words from the record, and voted separately restore her speaking privileges. The votes effectively overruled Hoyer, as one Democrat member of Congress told Fox News, “We’re going to defend our Speaker.”
The dramatic episode began when Pelosi’s prepared remarks condemning Trump turned personal, and Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins rose to challenge her and demand that her words be “taken down.” The extraordinary rebuke was the first of its kind involving a member of Congress and a speaker of the House in decades.
The scene then became even more bizarre when the chair, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., told representatives after a lengthy huddle that he was trying to make a fair ruling as to whether Pelosi had broken House rules governing decorum, but people weren’t cooperating. Cleaver told Fox News he felt Pelosi was being singled out.
Cleaver simply declared, “I abandon the chair,” and left — a moment with no apparent precedent in modern congressional history. North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield, also a Democrat, assumed the chair, before Hoyer took the reins.