Can someone elaborate on the reason why the House of Representatives needed to pass a resolution to condemn Trump's tweets?

Many people in government have criticized Trump's tweets before, but I don't recall anyone passing a resolution to condemn it. For example, when Trump attacked Elijah Cummings, Elizabeth Warren quickly condemned his tweets:

It is disgusting. This president brings shame to himself and to the White House

and Kamala Harris responded by saying:

I am proud our campaign headquarters is in Rep. Elijah Cummings' district. Baltimore has become home to my team and it's disgraceful the president has chosen to start his morning disparaging this great American city.

I found this page, but it talks about the consequences of condemning Trump's tweets, with the conclusion that:

Any way it goes, the vote will make Trump and/or the Republicans look bad. (To critics, anyway; I assume things could look good to the target audience in the 3rd scenario.)

Is there a more official reason other than to make Republicans looks bad? Is it to have it on "record" in case Trump backtracks and deletes his tweet?

  • 1
    Keep in mind Andrew Johnson was impeached, in large part, for racist comments aimed at members of congress (Article 10 of his articles of impeachment.) It might not explain the want vs need aspect of the situation, but it does put it into context.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 20:22
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    As a Marylander, I believe Trump's position is sound. Maryland rates as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. In addition, the charity run by Cumming's wife has come under scrutiny. I think Trump's delivery was the problem. They say sunshine is the best disinfectant. Keep bringing the issue to light so there's a chance for change...
    – user11101
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 8:35

2 Answers 2


why the House of Representatives needed to pass a resolution to condemn Trump's tweets?

It did not need to. It wanted1 to.

Many people in government have criticized Trump's tweets before [...]. For example, [...] Elizabeth Warren quickly condemned his tweets

A single representative by him/herself has no power. All of their power is to vote to get resolutions passed by the House. Besides them, their opinions may have some more weight than mine or yours (more people listening to them, the media reproducing them) but legally they do carry the same weight (none).

Is there a more official reason other than to make Republicans looks bad

The official reason is to condemn Trump's tweets. But it also serves some unofficial reasons:

  • It shows the opinion of the House as a whole instead of that of individual members.

  • It shows that the House is unhappy with Trump. Since Trump needs its support to pass legislation, it can be a sign that the House will not be collaborative unless Trump changes his ways.

  • It forces the Republicans to take a stance. When Trump made an infamous tweet and a Democratic representative condemned it, the Republicans could just avoid commenting on it. The resolution forces Republicans to define themselves, either they support the resolution (risking alienating the more staunch Trump supporters) or they oppose it (risking alienating the Republican voters who do not support Trump).

1To be clear, some representatives wanted to and some did not want to. But since the majority of them chose to support the measure, the end result is that the House passed the resolution. From now on, when I talk about the House I am actually meaning "the majority of the house".

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    It goes without saying that quite a few elected officials have trouble distinguishing "want" from "need".
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 3:06
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    "The opinion of the House as a whole" might be better phrased as "the prevailing opinion of the House", for the phrase "as a whole" conveys a sense of substantial overall agreement that does not apply here. Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 15:40
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    I'd suggest deleting "the more radical" from "risking alienating the more radical Trump supporters". Trump's latest approval rating among identifying Republicans is 90%. Clearly supporting him and the kind of stuff he says is not limited to any small radical subset.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 19:43
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    @reirab - Why they approve of him isn't the point (and it seems oddly defensive to even bring that up). The point is you don't publicly attack someone your primary voters support that much (in most cases more than the Congressman themselves), if you'd like to keep your job past the next primary. This is why almost no Republican who is running for re-election has done so.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 16:10
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    @T.E.D. I was responding to your statement that, "Clearly supporting him and the kind of stuff he says is not limited to any small radical subset." I was just pointing out that you can't really draw conclusions about how many people support "the kind of stuff he says" from Gallop approval numbers. I know lots and lots of people who would say they overall approve of his job as President, but who wish he would delete his Twitter account. (For whatever it's worth, though, I'd fall into the disapprove side.) Agreed about why most GOP lawmakers are reluctant to criticize him, though.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 16:17

SJuan76's answer addresses the political dynamics of a non-binding resolution like this very well, but it is also worth noting that this is not a joint political intervention that acts wholly independently of their regular duties.

The tweets in question are direct attacks on Members of Congress themselves. While I don't think there is any explicit duty for Congress to "stick up for itself" against such high-profile attacks, it is common – and indeed logical – for Congress to use non-binding resolutions in this manner to express a collective view when outside parties seek to weaken individuals within their number.

H.Res. 385 (115th), passed in the wake of the 2017 shooting at a Congressional baseball game which injured, among others, Rep. Steve Scalise, addressed a direct political motivation for Congress to pass such resolutions in its text:

(6) reaffirms that an attack on any Member of Congress is an attack on every Member, on the institution, and on the very principle of representative democracy

When acting as an institution (and discharging Constitutional duties) there is arguably a secondary duty for Congress to preserve the political authority of the institution so as to be able to accomplish their primary function with maximum effect.

Whether the passage of the motion in question was primarily motivated by an interest in defending the status of Congress collectively, compared to supporting a Congressional stance on racism in general or the partisan advantages it offered the Democratic majority, is debatable, but it forms a useful and contributory pretext for Congress to act in this particular way.


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