Some members of the Central Valley congressional delegation did not vote along party lines during Tuesday’s censure action against Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
By a 234-188 vote, the House censured Tlaib “for promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the State of Israel,” according to the bill title.
Tlaib is the only Palestinian American serving in Congress.
The tally included 22 Democrats joining 212 Republicans voting for censure; and 4 Republicans joining 184 Democrats in voting against. Ten others either did not vote or voted “present.”
The cross-over included local congressmen.
Jim Costa, D-Fresno, joined Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and David Valadao, R-Hanford, voting yes.
Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and John Duarte, R-Modesto, voted no.
Tlaib defended her stance, saying she “will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words.” She added that her criticism of Israel has always been directed toward its government and its leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Valley Representatives Explain Votes
“Censure is to punish corrupt deeds or egregious breaches of decorum. It should never be used to stifle political speech, no matter how offensive and outrageous. Voters alone are entitled to hold members accountable for their opinions, words and votes,” McClintock said in an email.
McClintock also wrote about free speech on his website.
All Democrats initially stood by Tlaib and helped defeat an earlier censure resolution against her last week. But since then, many of her colleagues, including prominent Jewish members, have become more conflicted about her rhetoric about the war, especially because of a slogan she has used frequently that is widely seen as calling for the eradication of Israel.
In an post last week on X (formerly Twitter), Duarte explained his vote to table a motion on the Tlaib censure. He said he supports Israel, and found Tlaib’s remarks “appalling, infuriating, and disgusting.”
“She still has a First Amendment right to free speech to voice these views, however ridiculous they may be,” Duarte said.
Said Valadao: “Rep. Tlaib has continued to share false narratives and anti-Semitic rhetoric while one of our closest allies in the Middle East is under attack. Rep. Tlaib has repeated Hamas’ propaganda by calling for the elimination of the state of Israel, and willfully spread misinformation about the explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital. Her anti-Semitic rhetoric is harmful to the U.S.-Israel relationship and to Jewish people here at home and abroad, and has no place in the House of Representatives.”
Costa’s office did not respond by time of publication but the congressman issued a statement later in the day.
“Every American is entitled to free speech,” said Costa. “But it’s not appropriate to use inflammatory language and dangerous rhetoric that fuels Hamas’s narrative of disinformation and promotes videos containing chants of “from the river to the sea” – a known rallying cry used by terrorists to call for the destruction of the Jewish state, Israel.
“This is not the same thing as supporting the Palestinian people, which I do. As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to measure our words and rebuke any misinformation that is fueling the divisions in our country. There must be accountability because words matter.”
Costa spoke on the House floor Tuesday morning, supporting Israel and condemning Hamas.
“We must stand against the attempts to undermine Israel’s very existence. It is disturbing to see the chants ‘from the river to the sea.’ This is a phrase used by Hamas in rallying cry of terrorists calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. It is antiemetic and it’s hateful. Israel as the right to defend itself, an obligation to protect its citizens and secure its borders,” Costa said.
McCarthy’s office did not reply by time of publication.
This story, which has been updated with comments from Rep. Jim Costa, includes material from the Associated Press.