By Benjy Sarlin

WASHINGTON — Congress has become skilled at distancing itself from President Donald Trump, but some are urging elected officials to go beyond tweets and press releases in response to the president’s comments about last weekend’s violence in Virginia when they return from recess in September.

Members of both parties have condemned Trump’s insistence that “both sides” bear some responsibility for the clashes at the Charlottesville, Va. rally and his defense of “very fine people” who joined a torch-wielding group of white supremacists that marched on the University of Virginia chanting “Jews will not replace us” and Nazi slogans.

But some some politicians are also pushing a menu of legislative options that they argue could help send a message to hate groups, encourage tougher executive action, and more clearly repudiate Trump’s position.

“I really believe if we are a government made up of three co-equal branches of government, I think it’s time for the Congress to step up and into the gap, so to speak,” Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday.

In the most explosive example, a group of Democrats unveiled legislation to censure President Donald Trump for failing to adequately condemn white supremacist groups and for blaming “both sides” for violence at the rally.

Related: Republicans and Democrats Blast Trump’s Latest Charlottesville Remarks

The bill, by Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., would also call on Trump to fire aides Steve Bannon, who boasted while running Breitbart News that the site was “the platform for the alt right,” and Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart editor who mocked concerns about white supremacist terror just days before the rally.

Groups like the Anti-Defamation League have also raised concerns about Bannon and Gorka, who have denied any ties to white nationalism or extremism.

“Congress needs to send a clear message that white supremacy and Nazi sympathy is not the official position of the United States government,” Nadler said on Twitter.

Outside activists have called for censure as well. The liberal activist group MoveOn.org have also circulated a petition in support of the idea and Jesse Ferguson, a former campaign aide to Hillary Clinton, has promoted the idea on Twitter.

“I’m a regular citizen who can tweet and Facebook that I don’t like what he said, but my elected officials need to be held to a higher bar,” Ferguson told NBC News.

Their efforts got a boost on Wednesday from USA Today, which published an editorial calling for censure as “a forceful way of rebuking the White House and condemning the vile views of a bigoted fringe.”

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