Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) put Democratic leaders in a bind Tuesday night by filing articles of impeachment accusing Trump of committing high crimes and misdemeanors. His resolution, which cited Trump’s comments targeting four minority Democratic congresswomen, was privileged, requiring that the House act within two days.
“It’s time for us to deal with his bigotry. This president has demonstrated that he’s willing to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, and we have seen what can happen to people when bigotry is allowed to have a free rein,” Green told reporters Wednesday. “We all ought to go on record. We all ought to let the world know where we stand when we have a bigot in the White House.”
Senior Democratic leaders favored a procedural vote to table, or effectively kill, the resolution, avoiding a direct vote on the impeachment articles. Republicans supported that step, receiving the sign-off from the White House, said a Republican congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.
Shortly after the vote, Trump claimed victory, casting the move as a straightforward decision on impeachment when it was a vote to put off any action — at least for now.
“We’ve just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment and that’s the end of it,” the president told reporters as he arrived for a campaign rally in Greenville, N.C. In a tweet, he called it “the most ridiculous and time consuming project” and said, “This should never be allowed to happen to another President of the United States again!”
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made clear earlier in the day that Democrats will press ahead with their investigations.
“We have six committees who 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 told reporters when asked about Green’s efforts. “That is the serious path that we are on — not that Mr. Green is not serious.”
The vote was politically fraught for Democrats as the party’s liberal base pushes hard for Trump’s impeachment, and several 2020 presidential candidates have urged the House to move swiftly to force him out of office. So far, 86 House Democrats favor opening an impeachment inquiry, although several were reluctant to endorse Green’s effort.
Liberal groups pressured Pelosi to allow a direct vote on the impeachment articles. Credo Action, a group with 5 million activists, said in a statement that the House must begin proceedings immediately because “Trump is a racist who has repeatedly abused the powers of the presidency to harm black and brown communities and to make a quick buck for billionaires off the backs of working families.”
Rather than tabling the resolution, several Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee tried to persuade Pelosi and other leaders to refer the articles of impeachment to their panel. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a private supporter of impeachment, said that is how such matters are historically handled, but was rebuffed, according to congressional officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks.
Nadler and several of his committee members who are in Pelosi’s leadership circle voted against the motion to table.
“If you are of conscience and see what is happening . . . one would have to vote to refer, and not to table,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), a panel member.
Democratic leaders were wary of headlines suggesting that Democrats are moving toward trying to oust Trump and worry that “referring” to committee may be spun by Republicans as a step in that direction. Even before the vote, Republicans were relishing the possibility of using the vote against their political opponents, with the office of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) citing the vote in a news release and asking: “How many House Democrats support impeachment?”
Some Democrats found Green’s timing peculiar, as it came not only a day after the condemnation vote but ahead of a high-stakes hearing. Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is scheduled to testify next week before two House committees about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and whether Trump obstructed justice, a session that lawmakers have been seeking for months.
“I don’t believe in jumping the process,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who has called for an impeachment inquiry. “We still need to build public support.”
Still, the vote on Green’s resolution Wednesday was the strongest show of backing he has received in recent years, highlighting the movement among the liberal base to begin proceedings. In December 2017, when Green forced a vote on impeachment articles, 126 Democrats wanted to table the resolution while only 58 Democrats fought for its consideration. In January 2018, when Green did it again, 121 Democrats voted to table while 66 Democrats rejected that move.
“At some point, you have to say enough is enough,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said in a statement.
Green’s resolution specifically chided Trump for his attack this week on the self-described “Squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.). Trump told the congresswomen to “go back” to their home countries, even though all are U.S. citizens and three were born in the United States.