GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy introduced a privileged resolution on the House floor Tuesday to censure Rep. Maxine Waters for her controversial comments to Minnesota protesters over the weekend urging them to "get more confrontational" if ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is not found guilty of the death George Floyd.
But Democrats moved quickly to table the resolution in a 216 to 210 party-line vote and avoided taking a vote directly on whether to formally reprimand the longtime California congresswoman.
"Speaker Pelosi, and every other House Democrat, had the opportunity to condemn the violent rhetoric of our colleague Representative Waters, a chairwoman and senior member of Congress, to protestors to 'get more confrontational,'" McCarthy said in a statement after his censure resolution failed. "Instead, they condoned it. And the House and our justice system are worse off because of it."
McCarthy's two-page resolution, shared first with Fox News, quotes heavily from Waters' own remarks on April 17 to protesters gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Minnesota.
Waters said she wanted a "guilty verdict" and without one, demonstrators should "stay on the street" and "get more confrontational, we've got to make sure they know we mean business."
McCarthy's resolution also uses the quotes from the judge in the Chauvin trial who admonished Waters in court.
On Monday, Chauvin's attorney asked for a mistrial in the case, citing Waters' comments which were made before the jury was sequestered.
The Minnesota judge, Peter Cahill, denied the request but rebuked Waters' remarks from the bench as "disrespectful to the rule of law." He said Waters' comments may have presented an avenue for Chauvin to appeal and have the trial "overturned."
The resolution further quoted Cahill who spoke of public officials: "I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful, and in a manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution. To respect the coequal branch of government. Their failure to do so I think is abhorrent."
Republicans argued that Waters needed to be censured for allegedly inciting violence in a highly charged atmosphere around Minneapolis. The city has been on edge during the Chauvin trial and following the killing of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man who was shot by a police officer on April 11.
"I'd like to see Maxine Waters apologize for the inflammatory comments that she's made inciting violence," Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said Tuesday in support of the censure resolution. "It's a powder keg down there. The last thing you want to do is make it worse."
But Waters has said she was not promoting violence but rather peacefully confronting the justice system.
"I am nonviolent," she told theGrio in an interview in defense of her comments.
"I talk about confronting the justice system, confronting the policing that’s going on, I'm talking about speaking up. I’m talking about legislation," Waters continued. "I’m talking about elected officials doing what needs to be done to control their budgets and to pass legislation."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., backed Waters and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., made a floor speech Tuesday in defense of his colleague.
Hoyer blasted Republicans for staging a "gotcha partisan vote" against Waters while refusing to condemn former President Trump and others for inciting a riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and taking no action against Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who liked social media posts that espoused violence against Pelosi and Democrats.
"There is no equivalence," Hoyer said of Waters and those Republicans. "Chairwoman Waters' remarks reflect the very profound anger and sense of hopelessness that she and so many others, myself included, feel when we see African Americans being killed during encounters with our law enforcement."
Hoyer urged his colleagues to look up confront in the dictionary. "Confront is to face the facts. Confront is to face the truth," Hoyer said. "... Confront is not violence."
Once McCarthy brought the resolution to the floor Tuesday afternoon, Hoyer immediately moved to table the matter. That meant Democrats weren't forced to vote directly on whether Waters' comments deserve censure, but rather vote on setting aside the resolution altogether.
McCarthy's resolution didn't bring up past controversial comments made by Waters over the years, but focused on her most recent remarks in Minnesota. Censure is a form of public admonishment, but it could have carried an added penalty for Waters.
Rule 25 of House Democrats' rules says members of congress who are censured by a vote of the House will be stripped of their committee chairmanships. Waters is the chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee.
The House has only censured 23 members in its history. The last was former Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in 2010 for a host of transgressions, ranging from tax evasion to misusing official House resources.
The censured member appears in the well of the House with the speaker presiding, officially chastising the offending member.
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.