House censures Arizona Rep. Gosar over video

Kevin Freking and Brian Slodysko
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for posting an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword, an extraordinary rebuke that highlighted the political strains testing Washington and the country.

Calling the video a clear threat to a lawmaker’s life, Democrats argued Gosar’s conduct would not be tolerated in any other workplace and shouldn’t be in Congress.

The vote to censure Gosar, and also strip him of his committee assignments, was approved by a vote of 223-207, almost entirely along party lines.

Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the vote an “abuse of power” by Democrats to distract from national problems. He said of the censure, a “new standard will continue to be applied in the future,” a signal of potential ramifications for Democratic members in future Congresses.

But Democrats said there was nothing political about it.

“These actions demand a response. We cannot have members joking about murdering each other,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution.”

Unrepentant, Gosar rejected what he called the “mischaracterization” that the cartoon was “dangerous or threatening. It was not.”

The decision to censure Gosar, one of the strongest punishments the House can dole out, was just the fourth in nearly 40 years — and just the latest example of the raw tensions that have roiled Congress since the 2020 election and the violent Capitol insurrection that followed.

The decision to move forward with the effort was born out of Democratic frustration with the House GOP, which declined to publicly rebuke Gosar, who has a lengthy history of incendiary remarks.

Instead, GOP leaders have largely ignored his actions and urged their members to vote against the resolution censuring him. They also warned that the effort sets a precedent that could come back to haunt Democrats if they find themselves in the minority.