The House is expected to act swiftly this week, but next steps in the Senate are less clear.
Originally published by The 19th
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi will on Tuesday take the next steps in a quickly developing Democratic plan to remove Donald Trump from the Oval Office with just days left in his presidency after he encouraged a mob that attacked the Capitol building.
Two measures were introduced Monday by House Democrats, who hold a 222-211 majority in the chamber. One calls on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows for a president’s removal if they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The other is an article of impeachment that charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in connection to Wednesday’s attack.
The resolution calling on Pence to act within 24 hours needed unanimous agreement and failed after Rep. Alex Mooney, a Republican from West Virginia, objected. Democratic leaders told lawmakers, most of whom are in their home states, to return to Washington by Tuesday evening to hold an in-person vote on the resolution, which at that point will require a simple majority in the Democratic-led chamber to pass.
If the Democrats get the expected majority on the measure and Pence does not act — and he has given no indication that he will do so — Pelosi has said she will move to a vote on the article of impeachment, which could come as early as Wednesday.
“We will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat,” Pelosi wrote to members of her caucus in a Sunday letter laying out the plan.
“As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action,” she continued.
Trump could then become the first president to be impeached twice. In December 2019, he was impeached by the House over allegations that he asked for foreign help in winning the 2020 election and obstructed an investigation into the matter. Impeachment does not equal conviction and removal from office, however, and a February 5, 2020, vote in the Senate failed.
The Senate is in recess until January 19, and under the terms of a bipartisan agreement reached earlier this month, senators cannot be called back into session unless the chamber unanimously agrees to do so. The Washington Post reported Monday that incoming Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is exploring whether he could use a September 11-era authority to reconvene the chamber during a time of national emergency.
Republicans held a majority in the last Senate, which they will lose with the upcoming swearings-in of Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president, and of Georgia Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who won runoff elections last week. An impeachment conviction would require support from two-thirds of the senators in the closely divided 100-seat chamber.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, a member of the Democratic leadership from South Carolina and a close Biden ally, said over the weekend that Pelosi may wait until well after inauguration to send the article of impeachment to the Senate for a trial. The move would delay what could be a consuming impeachment trial and allow the Senate to first focus on the confirmation of Biden’s cabinet and other pressing matters such as additional coronavirus relief.
While a post-inauguration Senate conviction would no longer remove Trump from office, it would deny him his lifetime pension. The Senate could also vote to bar him from running for the White House in 2024.
“Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we’ll send the articles some time after that,” Clyburn told CNN.
“It’s up to the speaker to do whatever she thinks is the best thing to do — but all I’m saying is: you can manage this in such a way that you make it an effective presentation in the Senate.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the year of the alleged election interference related to Trump’s first impeachment.