Democrats block Republican bid to censure Maxine Waters over Chauvin remarks

Alexandra Villarreal and Joan E Greve
·4 min read

Maxine Waters remained defiant as Democrats successfully blocked a long-shot attempt by Republicans to censure and expel the veteran congresswoman over comments on the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, which the judge said could provide grounds for appeal.

Related: Washington tense as America awaits Derek Chauvin verdict – US politics live

“I am not worried that they’re going to continue to distort what I say,” Waters, 82, told the Grio. “This is who they are and this is how they act. And I’m not going to be bullied by them.”

Republicans had unleashed fiery criticism against Waters after the California Democrat pledged on Saturday that protesters would become “more confrontational” if Chauvin were acquitted.

House Democrats on Tuesday voted down a resolution from the Republican minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to censure Waters over her comments, just hours before Chauvin was convicted of George Floyd’s murder.

The House voted 216-210 to table, or kill, the resolution. The vote fell exactly along party lines, with all Democrats opposed to advancing the resolution against Waters.

Waters has made clear she will not allow Republicans to pressure her into silence about the police killing of Floyd and, more recently, Daunte Wright a 20-year-old Black man.

Waters, who is Black, has served in Congress since 1991. She has a long record of campaigning for civil rights and confronting political opponents in blunt terms, in some quarters earning the nickname Kerosene Maxine.

Long a favorite target of Republicans, she attracted focused ire in 2018, when she said Trump aides and officials should be confronted by the public. Last week, she told the hard-right Republican congressman Jim Jordan to “shut your mouth” during a hearing with Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House medical adviser.

She spoke to the media on Saturday during a protest in Brooklyn Center, the Minneapolis suburb where police shot and killed Wright earlier this month.

Waters said she hoped Chauvin would be found “guilty, guilty, guilty”.

If Chauvin was acquitted, she said, “we’ve got to stay on the street, and we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

Republicans were quick to accuse Waters of inciting violence as, they said, Democrats accused Donald Trump of doing before the 6 January Capitol riot.

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy – who voted against impeaching Trump over the Capitol attack, which resulted in five deaths – said on Monday he would introduce a resolution censuring Waters for what he deemed “dangerous comments”.

“This weekend in Minnesota, Maxine Waters broke the law by violating curfew and then incited violence,” McCarthy tweeted.

In a co-ordinated attack, the Florida representative María Elvira Salazar said Waters had “a long history of inciting unrest and supporting dictators who use violence to get what they want”. The Texas representative August Pfluger called her rhetoric “outrageous and shameful”.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Georgia Republican and conspiracy theorist who has expressed support for executing prominent Democrats and FBI agents, said she would try to expel Waters, whom she called “a danger to our society”.

Greene claimed Waters “incited Black Lives Matter domestic terrorists”, following a shooting in which two Minnesota national guard members sustained minor injuries.

Prior to the guilty verdict on Tuesday, Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told NBC he had received a call from Biden.

The president, he said, “was just calling. He knows how it is to lose a family member. And he knows that the process of what we’re going through so he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, and hoping that everything would come out to be OK.”

Later, at the White House, Biden told reporters: “I can only imagine the pressure and the anxiety they’re feeling. They’re a good family, and they’re calling for peace and tranquility.”

The president added: “I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which is, I think … it’s overwhelming, in my view. I wouldn’t say that, lest the jury was sequestered now and not hear me say that.”

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Biden was “moved” by his conversations with the Floyd family. Biden was “certainly not looking to influence” the outcome of the trial by commenting, she said, adding: “I don’t think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict … regardless of the outcome, the president has consistently called for peace.”

Waters’ words were raised in the courtroom in Minneapolis on Monday when defense attorneys motioned for a mistrial because of them. Judge Peter Cahill denied the motion but also expressed frustration, saying Waters had been “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch”.

Cahill also told the defense: “I’ll give you that congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”

But Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, defended Waters, saying she did not need to apologize.

“Maxine talked about ‘confrontation’ in the manner of the civil rights movement,” Pelosi said.