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President Biden delivers the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress in 2023. Photo credit: US House

These days, the House of Representatives is more about theatrics than getting stuff done, but Wednesday's performance set a dangerous precedent.

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Things are just going great over in the House of Representatives. After a contentious committee hearing last week that began with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) mocking the appearance of Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-TX) and ended with the panel’s GOP majority changing the rules to allow Greene to continue to speak, House Republicans on Wednesday misapplied the same rules to silence Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who had listed some of Donald Trump’s legal troubles.

It all started when McGovern lambasted some of his GOP colleagues for “skipping their real jobs to take day trips up to New York to undermine Donald Trump’s criminal trial.” He then described some of the things the former president is accused of.

At that point, Rep. Jerry Carl (R-AL), who was presiding over the chamber at that time, reminded McGovern that decorum rules prohibited lawmakers from making offensive statements about presumptive presidential nominees.

The Democrat then responded that he was admonished for stating a truth, which is that Trump has been indicted by a grand jury and is now on trial, and made a parliamentary inquiry about whether it was now out of order for lawmakers to state the truth. He then noted that Republicans get to describe Trump’s trial as a sham but that he was admonished for talking about it.

“We have a presumptive nominee for president facing 88 felony counts, and we’re being prevented from even acknowledging it. These are not alternative facts. These are real facts,” McGovern stated.

“A candidate for president of the United States is on trial for sending hush money payment to a porn star to avoid a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign, and then fraudulently disguising those payments in violation of the law,” the lawmaker added. “He’s also charged with conspiring to overturn the election. He’s also charged with stealing classified information, and a jury has already found him liable for rape in a civil court.”

It should be noted that McGovern took some liberties in that last part. Trump was found liable for sexual assault but not rape, and he is charged with the willful retention of classified documents.

At that point, Rep. Erin Houchin (R-IN) demanded that McGovern’s words be taken down, and the chamber went into recess.

After more than an hour, Carl ruled that the Democrat’s “offensive” comments should be taken down because the House’s decorum rules equally apply to a sitting president and a presumptive presidential nominee.

Furthermore, he stated that it would not be in order to insinuate that Trump did something illegal… in spite of four criminal indictments and a smattering of civil trial verdicts that found him guilty of various offenses.

While the House isn’t getting much actual work done, it is certainly an entertaining place, and, regardless of the outcome of the trial(s), things are going to get even crazier.

But this isn’t just about the performance lawmakers are putting on almost daily in order to “go viral”; it’s about something much more serious.  

Because, while the criminal indictment(s) of a former president are uncharted territory, preventing facts — even politically inconvenient ones — from being stated on the House floor seems like a dangerous precedent.

In the end, McGovern, unlike Greene last week, was prevented from speaking again for the rest of the day.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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