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Trump complaints lead to record number of parliamentary warnings

This analysis was first available to Bloomberg Government subscribers.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries set a record this week when the presiding House officer warned him to mind his manners.

The New York Democrat’s comments had prompted a parliamentary reminder “to refrain from engaging in personalities toward the president.” Lawmakers have been told to heed the rule more times this year than in any recent session of Congress, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The record was set June 12, after Jeffries said this during a “special orders” presentation by members of the Congressional Black Caucus:

“Many of us are wondering, why were so many people who worship at the altar of white supremacy drawn to Donald Trump’s campaign? What was it about this individual that so many folks dripping in hatred flocked to his candidacy? That is not to say that every American who voted for Donald Trump s a racist. We do know that every racist in America voted for Donald Trump. That’s a problem. And so, again, I just ask the question in closing: Is this all a big coincidence? We know part of it is the backlash that has often occurred whenever we have made progress in America. But this president has a responsibility to address the rise in hate crimes that have taken place on his watch, whether or not his election is directly connected to it. Many of us have our own suspicions, but he is the commander in chief. He has got to tell his attorney general, who is straight out of central casting in terms of the good old boys: He ’s got to tell his attorney general that your job as chief law enforcement officer in the land is to enforce the laws whether you like them or not.”

Presiding officer Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania issued one reminder to Jeffries and another — No. 48 for the year — at the end of the caucus’s commentaries.

In a telephone interview, Jeffries wondered whether the rule governing what’s OK to say “could be revisited in a bipartisan fashion to figure out what exactly is appropriate to say about the president of the United States when the discussion is anchored in fact.”

“The House Republicans haven’t taken the extraordinary step of trying to take down someone’s words,” Jeffries said. “If they were to do that, then I think there would be a debate around what is a legitimate discussion with respect to the president’s factually-based conduct, words, and behavior.”

“Taking down their words” would silence an offending lawmaker for the rest of the legislative day.

The Numbers

Statistics culled from the Congressional Record show that critics of both parties have been called out over the years. This year, 47 of the warnings came after Democrats said something about Donald Trump. Trent Franks of Arizona — the only Republican representative to get that particular decorum warning in 2017 — was talking about then-President Barack Obama.

Compare this year’s number with past Congresses, when Obama and George W. Bush were in the White House:

Those numbers include comments about presidents, vice presidents, presidential candidates and other members of the House or Senate.

In addition to the ban on “engaging in personalities of the president,” Rule XVII instructs House members to refer to each as “the gentleman or gentlelady from” rather than mentioning each other by name when speaking on the floor.

For more on the “personalities” rule, see the BGOV Cheat Sheet.

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