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Republicans are floating a resolution to condemn the recent white supremacist protests in Virginia — a measure quickly hammered by Democrats who say the language echoes the equivocal response from President Trump.
The draft resolution strongly denounces the groups that organized the Charlottesville rallies, singling out the “white supremacists and neo-Nazis” at the center of the marches, which led to the death of a counter-protester and two law enforcers responding to the violence.
But Democrats are pouncing on language that condemns, in equal terms, both the racist groups “and counter protestors engaged in acts of violence.”
“This resolution is a non-starter for Democrats,” said a Democratic aide. “It equates Neo-Nazis and white supremacists with counter protestors, and reeks of the same moral equivalence as Trump’s statements.”
It’s unclear who penned the document, or how close the Republicans are to finalizing it.
The office of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, declined to comment. Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office did not respond to questions this week.
Trump’s ambiguous response to the Charlottesville rallies was denounced by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. The president, in a delayed statement, condemned the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, but he also praised the “very fine people” who marched beside those groups to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
In a fiery speech on Tuesday in Phoenix, Trump defended his response and blamed the media for fueling the controversy.
“Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold true as Americans,” he said in Arizona.
“Now let me ask you, can it be any better than that, in all fairness?”
Democrats, unconvinced, have launched a multi-pronged campaign to highlight the episode. They’re calling for hearings into the threat of white supremacist groups; offering resolutions to censure Trump; and pushing to yank Confederate statues from the Capitol.
Republicans have largely rejected those overtures, but their draft resolution signals a desire to make a public statement against the violence in Charlottesville that’s captivated the country for much of the month.
The one-page document, obtained by The Hill, offers an across-the-board condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville.
The House, the document reads, “strongly condemns racism, intimidation, and violence by all groups — regardless of their political affiliation or political motivation — that engage in such conduct, including the recent violence committed by the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and others in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
The resolution urges that “all perpetrators of the violence … be held accountable and brought to justice,” while emphasizing the constitutional right of groups to express “free speech and peaceful assembly.”
It also pays tribute to Heather Heyer, who was killed after a car was driven into the counter protesters — “a victim of politically-motivated violence,” the document reads — and to Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, the Virginia State Police officers killed in a helicopter crash.
“[They] lost their lives in the line of duty protecting non-violent freedom of expression,” the document reads.