Congress

House blocks Al Green articles of impeachment of Trump

Texas Rep. Al Green’s impeachment resolution got the support of 95 Democrats in the House on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders avoided a direct vote on Rep. Al Green’s articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump with Republicans’ help, as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy moved Wednesday to table the Texas Democrat’s resolution.

The motion was agreed to, 332-95, with Oregon Democrat Peter A. DeFazio voting “present.” 

“I think it’s a process. This was another step in the process,” Green said after the vote. He said he was pleased the number of Democrats joining him against tabling the impeachment resolution was greater than the number who joined him in similar votes last Congress.

Republicans, who held the majority then, also moved to table Green’s two previous impeachment resolutions. Those motions succeeded with bipartisan support, but dozens of Democrats joined Green in voting against tabling the resolutions — 58 on Dec. 6, 2017, and 66 on Jan. 18, 2018.

Like with the previous two votes, Green filed his latest articles of impeachment on Tuesday night as a privileged resolution, a procedural move that forces the House to take it up within two legislative days.

Leadership opted to dispense with the resolution — which Green argued is a logical follow-up to the House’s vote Tuesday to condemn Trump for racist tweets — during a Wednesday vote series. In that evening votes series, the House also voted on a criminal referral to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for stymieing House probes into the census. 

Democratic leaders are clearly ready to move on to legislative matters, as evidenced by a comment Pelosi made Thursday when speaking about the impeachment and condemnation resolutions. 

“We’re getting rid of all this right now,” the California Democrat said. 

While awkward for some Democrats who’ve avoided taking a position on impeachment, the vote to table Green’s resolution provides leadership some ammunition as they continue to fight back against a growing number of members in their caucus who want to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

That number was 89 before the vote to dispense with Green’s resolution, according to CQ Roll Call’s running count. 

Many of those Democrats stood with Green and voted against the motion to table his impeachment resolution, along with 25 others who had yet to take a public position on the matter or previously said they weren’t there yet.

95 against tabling

The total number of Democrats voting against tabling Green’s resolution was 95. While that does not mean all of them support impeachment, for many that is likely the reason.

“It means for me, we need to talk very seriously about a president who has brought dishonor to the presidency,” Rep. André Carson said. 

The Indiana Democrat had not previously called for opening an impeachment inquiry but said he now supports that.

“An evolution is taking place,” Carson said. “We’re seeing his repeated attacks against strong women in Congress, women of color, people of color, the way he talks down not only to those around him but to members of Congress who are a co-equal branch of government. It shows that he thinks more like an emperor than a president.”

Some members, however, declined to tie their votes against tabling Green’s resolution to support for impeachment.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who has reportedly privately lobbied leadership to open an impeachment inquiry, said he voted against tabling the resolution because he opposed that procedure. The New York Democrat would have preferred the House have referred the measure to his committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, also favored referring the matter to Nadler’s panel, saying she has confidence in her fellow New Yorker. She also said she voted against tabling the resolution because it was a Republican motion. 

At a minimum, it’s fair to say that most of the Democrats who voted against tabling Green’s resolution have not closed the door on the notion of the House eventually moving to impeach the president. 

“I was actually voting my district in terms of being able to move the process forward,” California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard said, although she noted she’s still not convinced the House needs to impeach Trump. 

Asked if that means she would support opening an impeachment inquiry, Roybal-Allard said, “I believe that I would,” noting there are a lot of things that indicate there should be one.

“The concern that I have, even though I think about moving forward, is that there are so many critical things that we have to deal with it … that at this point — being that it may not go anywhere — [it] is about focusing on other things that we need to get done without being distracted,” she added.

What about obstruction?

The number of Democrats who sided with Green is significant because his resolution was on actual articles of impeachment. Some members who support opening an impeachment inquiry had signaled they were only ready for that initial step and the continued investigatory hearings that come with it.

Even for those who are ready to vote on actual articles of impeachment, Green’s resolution doesn’t lay out all the evidence many Democrats think is there to impeach Trump. It focuses on what he has referred to as Trump’s “bigotry and racism that has been infused into policy,” rather than findings of obstruction of justice as laid out in former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. 

The timing of Green bringing up his articles of impeachment a week before Mueller is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees also confused some Democrats. Many members who have been on the fence about opening an inquiry said they wanted to hear Mueller testify before making a decision. 

Green may have earned more support for his impeachment push if it had come after Mueller’s testimony and sought to incorporate the special counsel’s findings. But he said that’s not what his push was about.

Some Democrats weren’t prepared to support impeachment articles based on racism, however.  

“I have said I will support an impeachment inquiry if requested by the Judiciary Committee, which would be for a broad-ranging investigation and ultimately, hopefully, charges that are very substantial. To base impeachment solely on his racist, xenophobic comments of yesterday is not what we need as a bill of impeachment. So I’d like to see us move forward, but that wasn’t the way to move forward,” DeFazio said, explaining his “present” vote.

Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. cited similar reasoning in explaining why he supported the motion to table Green’s impeachment articles. The Virginia Democrat said he has has supported opening an impeachment inquiry based on substantial evidence that Trump has obstructed justice and potentially other high crimes and misdemeanors. 

“This resolution, however, does not address those acts by the president,” he said in a statement. “If successful, it would immediately initiate an impeachment trial in the Senate solely to consider whether the president should be removed from office for the racist tweets, which he wrote earlier this week. I have been vocal in my condemnation of those tweets and his other racist statements and actions, but I do not believe this is the best way forward on impeachment.”

Green told CQ Roll Call after the vote that he has also drafted impeachment articles related to Trump’s obstruction of justice but he has not acted on those so as to give the Judiciary Committee time to conduct its investigation. 

If the Judiciary panel does not move forward with impeachment and no one else brings obstruction articles to the floor, Green said he will force a vote on the obstruction articles he’s drafted — likely before the end of the year.

“I know that there’s a point at which people will conclude it’s better to defeat than impeach,” he said. “At some point, it moves from impeachment into an election, so I think it ought to be done before we move to that point.”

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report. 

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.