Congress

The Democrats who voted to keep impeachment options open

Why those who do not yet favor an impeachment inquiry voted against blocking Green’s articles

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., voted against tabling Rep. Al Green's impeachment articles to keep the option on the table but she does not yet support opening an impeachment inquiry. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A House vote last Wednesday to block Texas Rep. Al Green’s articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump led to some contortions from Democrats yet to support impeachment or opening an inquiry, but it mostly came down to this: keeping those options open. 

About two dozen Democrats who had not been on the record in favor of impeachment proceedings voted with Green against tabling, or basically killing, his articles. A total of 95 Democrats voted that way, but most of those members had previously called for Trump’s impeachment or an inquiry. 

Only seven of the rest — Reps. Karen Bass, Doris Matsui and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, André Carson of Indiana, Rick Larsen of Washington, Donald M. Payne Jr. of New Jersey and Peter Welch of Vermont — have confirmed since the vote that they do favor impeachment or want to open an inquiry. 

So what about the others? For many Democrats they just didn’t want to shut down the possibility of impeaching Trump and felt that voting to table Green’s articles would be interpreted that way.

“Investigating the President is a serious issue, and Congress must uncover the truth. I voted against Republican attempts to block impeachment proceedings because I believe no option should be off the table,” Rep. Mike Thompson said in a statement.

The California Democrat, however, favors the six committees already investigating Trump to continue their work rather than the Judiciary Committee launching an impeachment inquiry.

“Congress must continue where special counsel Mueller’s investigation left off, including the six investigations already under way,” Thompson said. “The House must exercise its full, constitutional right to oversight over this administration.” 

A spokesman for Massachusetts Rep. Lori Trahan said the congresswoman “voted to keep impeachment on the table. ”

“Her vote makes clear that Congress stands ready to hold the president accountable and will not hesitate to assert its authority,” Mark McDevitt said.

While Trahan has consistently maintained that impeachment is always on the table, she has not yet at this time explicitly offered support for a formal inquiry to begin, McDevitt said, noting that she is closely follow the ongoing congressional investigations and looks forward to hearing former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testify on Wednesday.

California Rep. Jerry McNerney does not support opening an impeachment inquiry at this time, preferring to see the results of the ongoing congressional investigations, but “he also believes that an issue this serious should be open for debate if a member brings it to the floor,” his spokeswoman Nikki Cannon said.

Several Democrats who voted to keep the impeachment possibility alive said they would’ve preferred to see Green’s articles referred to the Judiciary Committee. Those include New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the panel’s chairman, and California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the next-most senior Democrat on the committee.

“I opposed this procedural motion because this article of impeachment should have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee,” Nadler said in a statement.  “One resolution related to impeachment has already been referred to the Committee. The subject matter of Congressman Green’s resolution was separate and distinct and did not go directly to the issues of obstruction, corruption, and abuse of power at the core of our investigation — but it, too, should have been referred to us.”

Nadler added that he’d like future impeachment resolutions to be referred to his panel as well so it can consider them as part of the “overall response to clear allegations of presidential misconduct.”

California Rep. Mike Levin also wanted Green’s impeachment resolution to be sent to the Judiciary Committee for further debate.

“I believe that congressional investigations into obstruction of justice and other potential violations of the law by the president should continue, and I look forward to special counsel Mueller’s testimony,” he said in a statement. “We must follow the facts wherever they lead, and I will support an impeachment inquiry when it becomes necessary in order to get the truth for my constituents.”

Among the Democrats who have not called for impeachment or an inquiry who voted against tabling Green’s resolution were two members of leadership, Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine M. Clark and Democratic Policy and Communications Co-Chair Debbie Dingell, as well as four committee heads — Nadler, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. and Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey.

Lowey said she would have preferred the resolution be sent to the Judiciary Committee. Clark, Dingell, Engel and Pallone’s offices did not return requests for comment about their votes.

At least one of the Democrats who has yet to call for impeachment but voted against tabling Green’s resolution acknowledged she was conflicted. 

“To be honest, I am torn: still not quite there in terms of moving forward to impeach, but I will be eventually because there is so much at stake. Our national security is at stake and there is a lot of domestic discord across the nation because of seeds of hate being sown by the White House that have created a climate of fear and retribution,” Florida Rep. Frederica S. Wilson said in a statement.

“Impeachment is a serious political remedy and I do not take lightly my responsibility as a congresswoman to be a check on this president and his administration,” she added. “We must build an extremely strong and convincing case and win the public’s support. That can be achieved by continuing the House investigations and exposing the whole truth to the American people.”

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