Speaking on the House floor on Thursday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib slowly broke down in front of her colleagues as she explained the danger she’s felt since winning her election in 2018. Before she was even sworn into her position, Tlaib said the FBI had received a credible threat against her life. “They had to go to this man’s house,” she said, describing the terror she felt as the FBI dealt with the incident. Since that day, the threats have only gotten worse. One threat mentioned her son by name. One person, she says, rejoiced over the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand and hoped that more such acts would take place.
Tlaib’s emotional speech was delivered before the vote to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her congressional committees, which passed in a 230-199 vote with 11 Republicans voting against their party on Thursday evening. Greene’s encouragement of violence towards Democrats and her vocal stance on being allowed to bring a gun into work have made her wildly unpopular with lawmakers like Tlaib, who considered themselves targets during the Capitol insurrection.
“What happened on January 6th, all I could do was thank Allah that I wasn’t here,” Tlaib says after recounting the paralyzing effects of getting death threats for months. After the insurrection, Tlaib says her team worked to keep such threats away from her, reporting and documenting them without Tlaib having to read them. After the insurrection proved that Americans would make good on their promises to intimidate or even harm elected officials, reading letters detailing how people wanted Tlaib to die would make it impossible to do her job, her staff believed.
Tlaib is the third member of the Squad to share her trauma in recent days, and it’s a speech that brings into focus the stark difficulties of working with colleagues who mark their political difference with looming threats of violence. It’s unclear if the path forward will include lawmakers being removed from their positions entirely or if such an act would even be possible in a partisan Congress that’s divided on the basic question of what Tlaib and other’s lives are worth. But it’s hard to imagine that those who lived through the insurrection will feel safe going into their place of work again.