Nov 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats brace for retaliation over Gosar censure

Rep. Paul Gosar as is seen sitting in a U.S. Capitol subway car.

Rep. Paul Gosar rides a Capitol subway car Wednesday, before he was censured. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Democrats are braced for retribution if Republicans retake the majority next year, after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised it as he complained about the effort to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).

Why it matters: The speeches that preceded Wednesday's vote illustrated how an effort to hold a member to account only exacerbated the divide between congressional Democrats and Republicans.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who's been subject to GOP calls for removal from the House Intelligence Committee, believes McCarthy is "capable of anything," and would "do whatever [former President] Trump told him to do."
  • Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) agrees. "I think they'll set the threshold so low and they'll look for any excuse to do this," he said.
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told Axios the vote breaks a precedent of party committees determining their members' committee assignments. He said a GOP effort to strip Democrats' committee assignments "will happen."

Between the lines: McCarthy lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during his floor speech, saying she leads a "broken Congress" and accusing her of "burning down the House on the way out the door."

  • "What they have started cannot be easily undone," McCarthy said. He stated the "Pelosi precedent" means "all members will need the approval of the majority to keep their positions in the future."
  • McCarthy pointed to Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as targets.
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) took it a step further, saying Republicans would retaliate against Omar, "the jihad Squad member," and Swalwell, who she accused of having sex with a Chinese spy.
  • Pelosi told Axios, "Democrats don't threaten the lives of other members" — and thus their committee assignments are not in danger.

Democrats complained an animation Gosar posted on Twitter depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and attacking President Biden.

  • They not only moved to censure him but remove him from his committee seats, including one of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
  • House Democrats also voted in February to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments. She told Axios on Tuesday she wants to see a GOP majority strip Democrats like Schiff of their committee seats.

Losing his Natural Resources seat will be a "huge blow" to Gosar, given the amount of federal land in his Arizona district, according to an aide to another Republican member on the panel.

  • The aide told Axios that while Gosar can still have colleagues introduce bills on his behalf, the development "significantly shrinks his platform to advocate on resources issues, mineral development, oil, etc."
  • "He’s going to really have to flex those relationships and work overtime to show constituents he can be relevant without committee assignments," the aide said.
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