The House on Wednesday easily defeated an effort from a Texas Democrat to impeach President Donald Trump in a vote that highlighted the Democratic fissures when it comes to impeachment.
Rep. Al Green was able to force the vote under House rules — the first that Congress has taken related to impeachment since Democrats took control of the chamber this year — in what amounted to the most direct challenge yet to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handling of impeachment.
The 332-95 vote divided Democrats, with 95 — a little more than 40% of the Democratic caucus — voting against tabling it, or voting to keep it alive. There were 137 Democrats who joined all Republicans in voting to defeat the measure.
Green’s decision to bring up his resolution presented a dilemma for impeachment supporters and moderate Democrats alike, as they’re now on the record for their vote, even if Green’s resolution was only focused on one issue — what he says is the President’s “bigotry and racism” — out of many Democrats are wrestling with on whether to move forward on impeachment.
Of the 85 Democrats publicly calling for an impeachment inquiry, 14 joined with Republicans to defeat Green’s impeachment resolution.
Green was able to force the House to take up his impeachment articles because it’s considered a privileged resolution under the House rules. While any House member can introduce a privileged resolution on the floor — and Green introduced similar resolutions twice while Republicans were control — Pelosi has until now held her party back from doing so since Democrats took control of chamber, despite more than 80 members pushing for the start of an impeachment inquiry.
Republicans helped Democrats table the resolution to show bipartisan opposition to impeaching the President on the grounds laid out in the Green resolution, according to a senior GOP leadership aide. The White House wanted a strong vote to kill the resolution, a source familiar with White House thinking said.
Democrats debated how to handle Green’s resolution, and they were considering a vote to delay consideration of the measure, according to a House leadership aide. The aide said that Democrats wanted to delay the vote to provide more time to educate the caucus on the resolution and the implications of it. But Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stepped in and offered the motion to table the resolution, which is given primary consideration on the floor before a motion to postpone, according to a Republican aide.
Trump cheered the vote at his North Carolina rally Wednesday evening.
“I just heard that the US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to kill the most ridiculous project I have ever been involved in. The resolution — how stupid is that — on impeachment,” he said.
Ahead of the vote, Green dismissed calls from within his party to hold off on the resolution, which he introduced Tuesday evening, arguing that impeachment should follow Tuesday’s House vote that condemned the President’s racist tweets.
“I should not hold off, we should go forward as expeditiously as possible and we should do so because on yesterday we convicted the President … The condemnation was a conviction. Today we have the opportunity to punish,” Green said a reference to the resolution that passed Tuesday condemning racist language used by the President. “As a result of what we did yesterday, the President suffers no harm, he doesn’t have to pay any fine, he’s not going to lose his job. But today we have the opportunity to punish.”
Democrats have been wrestling with the question of impeachment since taking control of the House, and now more than a third of House Democrats publicly support opening an impeachment inquiry. But Pelosi has resisted those efforts, saying they should not move forward with impeachment unless the public is on their side.
“With all the respect in the world for him, we have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the President may have engaged in,” Pelosi said. “That is the serious path that we are on, not that Mr. Green is not serious, but we’ll deal with that on the floor.”
Green brought up the impeachment resolution a week before special counsel Robert Mueller testifies publicly before the House, an event that many impeachment backers say will be key to sway the public — and skeptical lawmakers — on impeachment.
“Our focus should be on making sure that the Mueller hearing goes well,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
Other House Democrats who support beginning an impeachment inquiry — and in some cases moving forward with articles of impeachment — said they would support Green’s measure, even if they didn’t agree with his decision to bring it up now.
“If I thought it was a really good idea I’d have done it myself,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat who will support Green’s resolution.
“I don’t think this is the wisest moment,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “I mean, believe me, this is something that I wrestle with myself and I think that the president is unfit for office and so I need to think through it, but … we have an important process ahead that we really need to follow.”
But Green said he chose to move forward with his resolution because he thinks Congress should send Trump “a powerful message that this country will not tolerate bigotry, racism, hate, xenophobia, Islamophobia.”
He noted that his impeachment resolution is not connected to Mueller or the findings of his investigation.
“You don’t delay justice. The Mueller hearing has nothing to do with what we’re doing now. The Mueller hearing is all about obstruction, this is about bigotry and racism and that racism that’s been infused into policy,” Green said.
In December 2017 and January 2018, Green also introduced privileged impeachment resolutions, which were both tabbed by the Republican-led House. The resolutions were killed in votes of 364-58 and 355-66, respectively, with a majority of Democrats joining Republicans to defeat them in both cases.
The number of Democrats voting with Green increased Wednesday to 95, up from 58 in the first vote and 66 in the second.
Even in defeat, Green said the vote was a positive development “because people are starting to understand this process.”
And he said that he might bring impeachment resolutions to the floor in the future, potentially on other topics like obstruction.
“I don’t want to … but if it is not done by someone, I will,” he said. “This resolution was the right thing to do … the President at some point will be impeached.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.