Democrat Punished On House Floor For Accurately Saying Trump Is On Trial

House Republicans invoked Wednesday a rule meant to keep House floor debate somewhat civil to instead punish a Democratic lawmaker who recited the litany of charges against former president Donald Trump.

“Basically, what they’re trying to do now is cancel people. They’re trying to cancel people who are speaking up in a way that they don’t approve of. That’s the strategy,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told reporters after a portion of his debate speech on the House floor was ruled out of order.

The dustup kept the House at a standstill for a bit more than 45 minutes after Rep. Erin Houchin (R-Ind.) made a motion to “take down” McGovern’s words from the record after he listed Trump’s alleged crimes during debate on the floor.

McGovern said “a candidate for President of the United States is on trial for sending a hush money payment to a porn star to avoid a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign,” summarizing Trump’s current trial in New York City.

“He is also charged with conspiring to overturn the election. He is also charged with stealing classified information. And a jury has already found him liable for rape in a civil court,” McGovern said, describing Trump’s other current and past run-ins with the law. Trump was found liable for sexual assault in May 2023, although the judge in that trial acknowledged that it fit the colloquial definition of rape.

“And yet in this Republican-controlled House, it’s OK to talk about the trial, but you have to call it a sham,” McGovern said, which is when Houchin objected.

The presiding officer, Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), agreed, ruling after a long delay that presumptive nominees for president enjoy the same debate protections as members of Congress and the sitting president do. Under House rules, floor debate is supposed to be restricted to “the question under debate, avoiding personality.”

McGovern’s never been punished similarly before, even though he has a reputation as a pugnacious floor debater as the top-ranking member of the House Rules Committee. He said he’s made much worse remarks in debate before.

Their candidate for president has been indicted more times than he’s been elected,” he said May 15 on the floor, which drew a similar warning from the chair about “engaging in personalities” but no punishment.

While taking down words is uncommon, it is part of the often rough-and-tumble nature of floor rhetoric where each of 435 members vies for any way to get attention and tempers can flare. Many times the disputes are resolved with a vote on whether to affirm the chair’s ruling that a member’s words were out of order. McGovern said he didn’t call for one this time because Democrats would have lost.

Leaving the House floor where he was barred from speaking for the rest of the day as part of his punishment, McGovern said the episode showed how extreme Republicans are.

“And how sensitive they are in a way that, I think, is irrational.”