Posted by Stearns Images on Saturday, July 13, 2019
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), one of the first Native women in Congress, appears at the Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 13, 2019, an event that preceded President Donald Trump's "racist" rant on Twitter. Photo: Stearns Images / StearnsImages.Com

Native lawmakers divided over rebuke of President Trump's 'racist' tweets

The U.S. House of Representatives voted almost entirely along party lines to condemn President Donald Trump's latest "racist" remarks, with the four tribal citizens in office just as divided as their colleagues on the controversy.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), who are the first Native women in Congress, joined all of their Democratic colleagues in approving H.Res.489 by a vote of 240 to 187 on Tuesday evening. On the opposite side of the aisle were Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma), both of whom opposed the measure along with almost every Republican in the chamber.

Though none of the four tribal citizens spoke on the floor during the contentious debate, which consumed most of the afternoon, they made their views clear on the heated issue.

"The President has a long history of using rhetoric that dehumanizes and disrespects people, esp. women, people of color, and LGBTQ people," Davids, who is a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, wrote in a post on social media after the roll call.. "His racist tweets about my colleagues, who are duly elected members of Congress, are no exception. Today, I voted to condemn these remarks."

Haaland was equally forceful in the lead-up to the debate. Over the weekend, she shared the stage with three of Trump's targets -- all women of color and all newly elected like the two Native women -- at an event that appeared to have triggered the president.

And as the vote on the resolution was almost complete, she reposted what turned out to be a prophetic image depicting the two Native women and all four of Trump's targets on her political social media account. The image was created by artist SoGayJen back in January, as all six made history by being sworn into the 116th Congress.

"The politics of division is how this Administration works," Haaland, who is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, said of Trump's troubled tenure in office. "We are here to serve our country. Our families are here. Our kids are here. We are here. I stand with my sisters."

But Cole, who is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, called the entire affair a political stunt after initially asserting that he was "deeply disappointed" in Trump's remarks about his fellow minority lawmakers. He voted against H.Res.489 because he said it amounted to a double standard.

“Unfortunately, H.Res.489 singles out and condemns the president but ignores the shameful rhetoric on the other side. This is unfair, inappropriate and inconsistent," Cole, who co-chairs the Congressional Native American Caucus with Haaland, said in a statement after the vote "Just last week, the same people calling President Trump a ‘racist’ were calling Speaker Pelosi a ‘racist.’ Both claims are wrong."

Mullin, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, also voted against the rebuke. Though he has not publicly stated how he feels about Trump's remarks, he attempted to turn attention to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), whose comments as Speaker of the House came under fire during debate.

"No wonder the Democratic majority can’t get anything done," Mullin said in a post on social media. "They just spent hours fighting about Speaker Pelosi’s ability to break the House rules and call the President a racist. This is ridiculous. Speaker Pelosi is not above the rules."

President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting of his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House on July 16, 2019. Photo: Shealah Craighead / White House

The showdown took place after Trump, earlier in the day, defended the tweets in which he had told minority women lawmakers to "go back" to their suppose countries of origin, even though all are American citizens and all but one was born in the United States.

"Those Tweets were NOT Racist," Trump wrote on the social media platform. "I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!"

H.Res.489 rebukes Trump's July 14 thread on Twitter, which consisted of three posts aimed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), all newly-elected members of Congress from minority ethnic, racial, religious and national backgrounds. The measure said the president's "racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color."

“Every single member of this institution should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets,” Pelosi said in her floor speech, using words that Republicans tried to have "taken down," accusing her of breaking a House rule by accusing Trump of being a racist.

“To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people,” Pelosi said.

The attempt to strike Pelosi's words from the record failed by a vote of 190 to 232, with all Democrats and one new Independent -- Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who recently left the Republican party out of disdain for Trump -- unified against the Republican request. Cole and Mullin stood with the GOP in the roll call

As for Trump, he began his Twitter thread by singling out "'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen," a phrase that appeared to be linked to a liberal Democratic event that took place a day prior. Haaland, who frequently emphasizes her Indigenous roots by referring to herself as a "35th generation New Mexican," sat on the "Making Herstory" panel at Netroots Nation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Saturday along with Omar, Pressley and Tlaib.

Speaking through sustained applause, Haaland said she hoped to represent the "573 tribes across the country who have rarely had a voice in our politics. My door is open to all of them because they have things to say and we need to listen."

While the vote on H.Res.489, Condemning President Trump's racist comments directed at Members of Congress, was almost entirely partisan, four Republicans broke ranks to support it. They were: Rep. Susan W. Brooks (R-Indiana); Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania); Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who addressed the National Congress of American Indians for the first time earlier this year; and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan).

Amash, who was among a core group of lawmakers who have been voting against Indian Country legislation in the 116th Congress, also voted in support of the rebuke resolution.

Trump's remarks about the minority women in Congress represent the latest in a long line of remarks deemed racist, offensive and riddled with stereotypes. During his days as a commercial casino operator, he frequently targeted tribes using racially charged language.

In reference to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the owners of what was the largest casino in the world at the time, Trump famously told Congress in October 1993: "Now, they don't look like Indians to me."

Such comments, along with others that questioned the legitimacy of tribal nations as well as the integrity of the overall Indian gaming industry, motivated the late Native rights activist Frank LaMere, a longtime Democratic figure, to oppose Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, and he urged Native voters to do the same.

"We need to stand up to this bully," LaMere, who was a citizen of the Winnebago Tribe, told Indianz.Com during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that summer.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has repeatedly used the name of a Native woman, Pocahontas, as a slur against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), one of his biggest political rivals. The most glaring incident took place in front of Native war heroes during Native American Heritage Month later that year.

"That's telling of him and his administration that they are not working in any way to build relationships with Indian tribes," Haaland told Indianz.Com at the time. A year later, she won her seat in Congress, making history along Davids as the first two tribally-enrolled women on Capitol Hill.

H.Res.489, Condemning President Trump's racist comments directed at Members of Congress
Condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress.

Whereas the Founders conceived America as a haven of refuge for people fleeing from religious and political persecution, and Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison all emphasized that the Nation gained as it attracted new people in search of freedom and livelihood for their families;

Whereas the Declaration of Independence defined America as a covenant based on equality, the unalienable Rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and government by the consent of the people;

Whereas Benjamin Franklin said at the Constitutional convention, “When foreigners after looking about for some other Country in which they can obtain more happiness, give a preference to ours, it is a proof of attachment which ought to excite our confidence and affection”;

Whereas President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists”;

Whereas immigration of people from all over the Earth has defined every stage of American history and propelled our social, economic, political, scientific, cultural, artistic, and technological progress as a people, and all Americans, except for the descendants of Native people and enslaved African Americans, are immigrants or descendants of immigrants;

Whereas the commitment to immigration and asylum has been not a partisan cause but a powerful national value that has infused the work of many Presidents;

Whereas American patriotism is defined not by race or ethnicity but by devotion to the Constitutional ideals of equality, liberty, inclusion, and democracy and by service to our communities and struggle for the common good;

Whereas President John F. Kennedy, whose family came to the United States from Ireland, stated in his 1958 book “A Nation of Immigrants” that “The contribution of immigrants can be seen in every aspect of our national life. We see it in religion, in politics, in business, in the arts, in education, even in athletics and entertainment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immigrant background. Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”;

Whereas President Ronald Reagan in his last speech as President conveyed “An observation about a country which I love”;

Whereas as President Reagan observed, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors, and it is the Statue of Liberty and its values that give us our great and special place in the world;

Whereas other countries may seek to compete with us, but in one vital area, as “a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close”;

Whereas it is the great life force of “each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America's triumph shall continue unsurpassed” through the 21st century and beyond and is part of the “magical, intoxicating power of America”;

Whereas this is “one of the most important sources of America's greatness: we lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people -- our strength -- from every country and every corner of the world, and by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation”;

Whereas “thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we're a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge”, always leading the world to the next frontier;

Whereas this openness is vital to our future as a Nation, and “if we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost”; and

Whereas President Donald Trump’s racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) believes that immigrants and their descendants have made America stronger, and that those who take the oath of citizenship are every bit as American as those whose families have lived in the United States for many generations;

(2) is committed to keeping America open to those lawfully seeking refuge and asylum from violence and oppression, and those who are willing to work hard to live the American Dream, no matter their race, ethnicity, faith, or country of origin; and

(3) strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should “go back” to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as “invaders,” and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.

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