A Democratic congressman stopped just short of forcing a House vote on President Trump’s impeachment Wednesday, pulling back under apparent pressure from his own party.
Rep. Al Green (Tex.) read his impeachment resolution on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, bringing it up under rules that would force a rapid vote. But less than an hour later when the House’s presiding officer called up the resolution for action, Green did not appear on the floor to offer it.
Green said to reporters afterward that he had wanted to allow more time for his colleagues to review the resolution before it was voted on, and he suggested that the House floor staff had misled him about the timing of that vote.
“Before I left the floor, there was an understanding with the parliamentarian and other persons who were there that it would not be voted on immediately,” he said.
According to multiple House Democratic aides, party leaders had prevailed upon Green not to offer the resolution and thus force his colleagues to cast a potentially troublesome vote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders have sought to tamp down calls for Trump’s impeachment, citing ongoing investigations into his campaign and administration being pursued by congressional committees and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Any move to impeach before those probes are complete, they have said, would be premature.
“I’m not an impeachment enthusiast,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the assistant Democratic leader and highest-ranking African American in the House, noting that Republicans hold the majority. “Where are you going to get the majority of the votes? So it’s just an empty gesture.”
Republicans, on the other hand, were happy to schedule a vote. GOP aides said they planned to move to table Green’s resolution, killing it outright.
A vote to table Green’s resolution could have forced Democrats to explain to anti-Trump voters why they opposed removing the president from office, while a vote against tabling could have required them to explain to more-moderate voters why they took action against the president while investigations are underway.
“Many members are telling him that this is a fruitless effort and will end in a complicated vote that cannot be easily explained,” a senior Democratic aide had said. “Members don’t want this vote.”
Green, who first announced his intention to pursue impeachment last month, said he had not been asked to stand down before he came to the floor Wednesday. But he declined to say whether he had been approached after he gave his remarks.
“Any discussions I may have had are private, and I will not discuss them,” Green told reporters Wednesday, adding that he felt “not one scintilla” of pressure from party leaders.
Green did not rule out forcing a future vote on his resolution: “I will not indicate when, but I will indicate that it will be brought up.”
In nearly 20 minutes of floor remarks Wednesday, Green inveighed against Trump for having “produced a demonstrable record of inciting white supremacy, sexism, bigotry, hatred, xenophobia, race-baiting and racism by demeaning, defaming, disrespecting and disparaging women and certain minorities.”
“In so doing,” Green continued, Trump “has fueled and is fueling an alt-right hate machine and his worldwide covert sympathizers, engendering racial antipathy, LGTBQ enmity, religious anxiety, stealthy sexism and dreadful xenophobia, perfidiously causing immediate injury to American society.”
Green told The Washington Post in an interview last month that he was compelled to pursue articles of impeachment after seeing Trump denigrate pro football players who have engaged in silent protests during the playing of the national anthem before games. That, he said, was the final straw after what he saw as a string of impeachable offenses.
“There were many, many things that could have been the straw,” he said. “But these comments about free speech, which is something I cherish, they have caused me to conclude that now is the time to let the world know that there is at least one person in the Congress who believes that the president has gone too far.”
Green initially planned to file the resolution last week but delayed his plans after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
There are no indications that Green’s resolution has anywhere near the majority support needed to pass, but even if it did, Trump would not be immediately ousted. The Senate would hold a trial based on the House impeachment article and ultimately decide whether the president should be removed from office.
Paul Kane contributed to this report.