The House on Wednesday easily defeated an effort from a Texas Democrat to impeach President Donald Trump in the first vote that Congress has taken related to impeachment since Democrats took control of the chamber.
Rep. Al Green was able to force the vote under House rules, in what amounted to the most direct challenge yet to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handling of impeachment.
The 332-95 vote showcased the stark divide among Democrats, who split over the vote to kill the impeachment measure. Ninety-five Democrats — a little more than 40% of the Democratic caucus — voted against tabling it, or to keep it alive. That’s more Democrats who voted against tabling than similar resolutions in 2017 (58) and 2018 (66). No Republicans voted to keep it alive.
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.
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.
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 is bringing 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.