A resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s racially charged attacks on four Democratic politicians has been passed in the US House of Representatives.
Mr Trump had urged his fellow Republicans to oppose the measure, which is symbolic and has no legal force.
However, Tuesday’s vote was quickly followed by Texan Democrat Al Green introducing articles of impeachment against Mr Trump, potentially forcing a vote this week on whether to remove him from office.
The Democrats have a majority in the House. Their vote on the condemnation resolution was also accompanied by a measure of Republican support, signalling that Mr Trump’s attacks had crossed a line, even with his own party.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had previously indicated her wish to see Republican support.
“If they can’t support condemning the words of the President, well, that’s a message in and of itself,” she told party colleagues in a closed caucus meeting on Tuesday, according to an aide who was present.
All four Congresswomen targeted in Mr Trump’s attacks are minority women on the Democrats’ progressive wing, and serving their first terms.
Mr Trump ignited the controversy on the weekend by tweeting that the four should “go back” to where they came from.
All four are US citizens; three were born in the United States.
“Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap,” Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show “weakness” and fall into their trap. This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2019
Mr Trump did not name the women in his initial tweets but he singled out some of them in remarks at a White House event on Monday.
The group – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – have criticised the President, as well as the current Democratic leaders of the House, straining party unity in that chamber.
“You’re right, Mr. President – you don’t have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to Mr Trump.
You’re right, Mr. President – you don’t have a racist bone in your body.
You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest.
That’s why you violate the rights of children and tell the Congresswoman who represents your home borough, to “go back to my country.” https://t.co/adlCUO7r0v
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 16, 2019
The vote was passed on Tuesday night, with four Republicans joining Democrats to condemn the President’s tweets.
Ms Pelosi has been trying to manage demands from some House Democrats for a tougher resolution to censure Mr Trump.
The censure can be invoked against members of Congress or other government officials.
It is rarely used by Congress against a president and normally requires the person being censured to stand in the House for a public reprimand.
Meanwhile, Mr Green’s push for an impeachment vote appears to have come too soon for most Democrats, as a majority of the caucus appears to oppose impeachment, for now.
But Mr Green is seeking to capitalise on a growing sentiment for impeachment in the wake of Mr Trump’s racist tweets.
Mr Trump was unfit for office and “enough is enough”, he said on Tuesday.
Any member of the House can force an impeachment vote. Mr Green has done so twice before – unsuccessfully.
Democrats and other critics have rejected Mr Trump’s personal attacks on the four women, who are known on Capitol Hill as “the squad”.
A few congressional Republicans have condemned the remarks, while others have defended the President and attacked the women.