Congress

Leaders likely to sidestep direct vote as House considers Al Green impeachment articles

Pelosi opposes measure, which members expect to be tabled or to be referred to Judiciary to dispense of it

Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, is pushing for a vote as soon as possible on his articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House is likely to take up Rep. Al Green’s privileged impeachment resolution against President Donald Trump during a Wednesday evening vote series, two Democratic aides confirmed after the Texas Democrat told reporters the vote would occur then. 

Democratic leaders had not yet decided how to dispense with the measure as of midday Wednesday, but several members said they expect a motion to refer it to the Judiciary Committee or to table it rather than a direct vote.

Green said such moves are “a means to get around impeachment,” and that Democrats are close to “paralysis by analysis.”

He is able to force consideration of his articles of impeachment because he filed it as a privileged resolution. Green introduced his articles on the floor Tuesday evening, a move called giving notice that triggers a two-day time clock in which leadership must consider it.

Oftentimes when a member tries to force a vote as a matter of privilege, leadership will turn to procedural maneuvers, like a motion to table or refer to committee, to dispense with the measure rather than vote on it.

Green told reporters Wednesday morning that he had not talked to Speaker Nancy Pelosi but he was hoping leadership would allow an up or down vote on the articles of impeachment.

But that seems unlikely given that Pelosi said she doesn’t support his resolution. 

“No, I don’t. Does that come as a surprise?” the California Democrat told reporters Wednesday as she left a Democratic Caucus meeting. 

Pelosi, who’s worked to hold her caucus back from pursuing impeachment without backing from Republicans and the public at large, declined twice Wednesday to say whether leadership would move to table the resolution. 

“I don’t know what we will do, but we will deal with it on the floor,” she said during her weekly press conference that afternoon.

Pelosi said she had not seen Green's articles of impeachment but understood them to be about racism. She said she respects Green, noting he's a prayerful member who honors the Constitution, but said the Democratic Caucus is on a different path in regards to impeachment.

“We have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of the justice and the rest that the president may have engaged in,” she said. “That is the serious path that we’re on, not that Mr. Green is not serious.”

 

Not ready to debate

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn told reporters if he had his druthers he would table the impeachment resolution, but it’s not his call. 

“I don’t think we’re ready to debate that at this point,” the South Carolina Democrat said. 

One of the reasons the House isn’t ready to vote on such a resolution, Clyburn said, is because former Special Counsel Robert Mueller hasn’t yet testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee.  Mueller is scheduled to testify before the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on July 24.

Many Democrats who have yet to take a position on impeachment have said they want to hear Mueller’s testimony before deciding whether it’s appropriate to go down that path.

But a vote on Green’s resolution, whether direct or indirect, still puts Democrats in a tough situation because it would be the first time many members will have to go on record on the matter.

So far, 88 Democrats have publicly expressed their support for opening an impeachment inquiry, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis. It’s unlikely that all of those Democrats will support Green’s resolution, however. 

“I don’t think because you’re for impeachment that means one member gets to decide the terms and the timing,” Rep. Dan Kildee said. 

Although the Michigan Democrat is one of the members who is on board with opening an impeachment inquiry, he said he is unlikely to support Green’s resolution. 

“My preference would be to send everything to the Judiciary Committee, that’s where it belongs,” Kildee said. 

Strategically a motion to refer to Judiciary would be easier for members to vote for since that just punts the matter to the committee with jurisdiction, whereas a motion to table would simply kill the resolution.

Texas Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, a senior Judiciary Committee member, said Trump has put himself in the position to face impeachment but she would be fine with a motion to refer to committee because of the ongoing investigations there.

“If you are of conscience and see what is happening — aside from comments that were racist that were said — just the whole lineage of actions, one would have to vote to refer or not to table,” she said.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he hadn’t talked to Pelosi about how to handle Green’s articles of impeachment, but the New York Democrat noted the normal procedure would be to send it to his committee. 

Rep. David Cicilline, a Judiciary member and the first member of Pelosi’s leadership team to have called for opening an impeachment inquiry, said he hasn’t read Green’s articles yet so hasn’t decided how he’d vote. 

“If it’s referred to the Judiciary Committee, that’s the committee that has jurisdiction over this and I will continue to press for the opening of an inquiry,” the Rhode Island Democrat said. “We’ve obviously begun hearings to address the issue of presidential misconduct. We will hear of course from the special counsel next week. So we’ve begun the work of collecting evidence to make determinations in this regard.”

One of the issues for Green in building support for his resolution is that he’s drafted his articles of impeachment to focus more on what “bigotry and racism that has been infused into policy” than the findings of presidential misconduct in the Mueller report. 

Most Democrats who support impeachment or opening an inquiry have cited Mueller’s findings as their reason. 

“This is a process where you want to be sure that if in fact you get to the point of filing articles of impeachment that they directly correlate to the evidence collected during the course of the investigation,” Cicilline said. “that is why i think it’s important for the committee of jurisdiction that’s collecting evidence to actually be the moving party in drafting articles of impeachment.”

Todd Ruger and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report. 

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