House Democrats are moving to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time — with a vote scheduled for Wednesday — but first they want to exhaust their other options for removing him from office.
That effort started last week with calls for Trump to resign after he incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol Wednesday.
Democrats last week also called for Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Those calls were formalized Monday as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer sought unanimous consent during the chamber's 11 a.m. pro forma session to pass a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to use his powers under the 25th Amendment to convene the cabinet, remove Trump and take over his duties.
Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia objected to Hoyer’s UC request, stopping the measure temporarily.
The resolution, authored by Democrats’ resident constitutional scholar, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, specifically calls on Pence “to declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”
Pence has yet to publicly state his position on invoking the 25th Amendment but media reports have said he is opposed.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to her caucus Sunday night outlining plans for the unanimous consent request and noting that if it was blocked, as it ultimately was Monday, that the House would hold a roll call vote on it Tuesday.
“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi said in the letter. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”
Democrats have already been preparing to impeach Trump again — the House first impeached him in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but the Senate acquitted the president of both charges early in 2020 — with a resolution that quickly garnered a majority of the caucus’s support.
The resolution, drafted by House Judiciary members David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Raskin with help from committee staff, includes just one article of impeachment, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” The sponsors announced Monday that they had 213 co-sponsors, which is most House Democrats. The caucus has 222 voting members, as well as a handful of nonvoting delegates.
In an interview with CBS's “60 Minutes” that was taped Friday and aired Sunday, Pelosi signaled she supports the approach the Judiciary members have taken with their resolution.
“There is strong support in the Congress for impeaching the president a second time,” the California Democrat said. “This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that.”
Conditional or not?
Pelosi’s letter did not make impeachment conditional on the 25th Amendment effort failing, but some Democrats initially interpreted it that way.
Hoyer cleared things up on a caucus call Monday afternoon as he announced the House would vote on the 25th Amendment measure Tuesday night and an impeachment resolution Wednesday. Earlier Monday, Hoyer told reporters impeachment was on a “parallel path” to the 25th Amendment effort.
Democrats know a Senate trial is unlikely to occur before Trump leaves office, meaning impeachment won’t result in the president’s early removal. But nonetheless, they view it as a necessary measure to hold Trump accountable — one that could also bar him from ever holding public office again.
“We need to make it clear that there is a consequence for what happened on Wednesday,” House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern said on CNN Monday morning. “And it will happen again if there is not a consequence for his action. So it is important that we act.”
Pelosi, in the “60 Minutes” interview, acknowledged that barring Trump from holding office and making sure he can’t run for president again in 2024 is “one of the motivations the people have for advocating for impeachment.”
In her letter Sunday night, Pelosi said she’s received feedback from members about how to hold Trump accountable, as well as other Republicans who encouraged action against certification of the election results.
The speaker said some members have suggested the House look at the 14th Amendment, Section 3 of the Constitution, which says no elected official who has taken the oath of office swearing to defend the country’s founding principles “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Freshman Rep. Cori Bush announced on Twitter Sunday that she planned to introduce a resolution Monday to expel members of Congress “who tried to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist coup attempt that has left people dead.”
“They have violated the 14th Amendment,” the Missouri Democrat said. “We can’t have unity without accountability.”
Democratic leaders have not announced any specific actions they plan to take in relation to the 14th Amendment.
Some GOP support
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already come out against impeachment, with a statement Friday saying the two parties should instead work together to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration.
“Impeaching the President with just 12 days left in his term will only divide our country more,” the California Republican said.
While most Republicans seem to share that view, some would likely vote for an impeachment resolution if one is brought to the floor.
“I’ll vote the right way, you know, if I’m presented with that,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “I just think it’s probably not the smartest move right now, but I think that’s going to be out of my hands.”
The Illinois Republican said he thinks impeachment “victimizes Donald Trump again,” at a time when he’s looking bad.
“He stirred up a crowd. It was an executive branch attack on the legislative branch, one of the worst days in American history,” Kinzinger said.
“I think the president did commit impeachable offenses. There’s little doubt in my mind about that,” Toomey said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
But Toomey expressed concern about pursuing impeachment “as a practical matter” given the limited time left before Trump leaves office.
“I’m also not at all clear that it’s constitutionally permissible to impeach someone after they have left office,” he said. “So, there may not be a viable impeachment route at this point.”
‘Pouring gasoline on a fire’
Other Republicans who want Trump to be held accountable for inciting Wednesday’s violence are concerned the methods Democrats are pursuing will only further stoke the flames.
“One of the issues that I have right now whether it’s the 25th Amendment, whether it’s impeachment right now, is further dividing the country and pouring gasoline on a fire,” freshman Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said on CNN Sunday. “I risked my life to take the vote on Wednesday night to certify the Electoral College. There are many of us out there that happened to, our lives were — people were threatening us. I was accosted in the street on Tuesday night.”
Mace didn’t rule out supporting impeachment, saying she’d look at the evidence presented and vote based on the Constitution. But she noted there are other options Democrats could pursue, like censuring Trump, that would get far more Republican support.
“I do believe there’s an appetite, whether that is censure or some other resolution or an opportunity to move forward, somebody’s got to be held accountable and we have to hold the president accountable for what happened,” she said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member, has said that while she supports impeachment, she plans to introduce a censure resolution as the only measure to hold Trump accountable that could get through the Senate and be approved before Biden’s inauguration.
“It is clear the 25th Amendment will not be invoked and that the Senate will not convict the president after impeachment,” she said. “A censure resolution is the only way to send a bipartisan, bicameral message without delay to the country and the world that the United States is a nation of laws.”
Norton is not the only Democrat worried about the impact a Senate impeachment trial would have on Biden’s agenda.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he and Pelosi have concerns about a Senate trial distracting from efforts to confirm Biden’s executive and judicial nominees and to pass additional coronavirus relief.
Pelosi gets to decide when to send the impeachment articles to the Senate, the South Carolina Democrat said, as he made a case for delay.
“Let’s give president-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running. And maybe we will send the articles some time after that,” Clyburn said, while emphasizing Pelosi will do whatever she thinks is best.
“But all I am saying is, you can manage this in such a way that you make it an effective presentation to the Senate,” he said.
A delay may not be politically tenable given Democrats have been calling their effort to hold Trump to account urgent. Hoyer said he prefers the House immediately send the paperwork to the Senate.
“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in her letter Sunday night. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”