- The House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
- While most Democrats voted in favor of both charges, 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) voted present.
- In a lengthy statement, Gabbard said that “could not in good conscience vote either yes or no” because of the partisan nature of the process, and added that her vote was “a vote for much-needed reconciliation.”
- The articles will now be sent to the Senate for trial. Speaker of the House Pelosi has said she will delay sending the articles until she can be assured that the Senate will conduct a fair trial.
House Votes to Impeach
The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, officially making him the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
After a day’s worth of debate, the House held two separate votes on the two articles of impeachment levied against Trump.
The first article is for abuse of power and claims that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid, as well as a meeting at the White House.
The second article alleges that Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with their impeachment inquiry.
The abuse of power article was passed with 230 yeas to 197 nays, with one member voting present. The obstruction of Congress article was passed along similar margins, with 229 yeas to 198 nays, and one present vote.
House members voted almost entirely along party lines. No Republicans voted in favor of either article, while nearly all of the Democrats voted in favor of both.
Two Democrats voted against the abuse of power article and three voted against the obstruction of Congress article.
However, one of the Democrats who voted against both articles was Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who recently announced that he plans to switch his party affiliation to Republican.
Tulsi Gabbard Votes Present
Notably, the single Democrat who voted present for both articles of impeachment was 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
Gabbard explained her decision in a lengthy video posted on Twitter.
“After doing my due diligence in reviewing the 658-page impeachment report, I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no,” she said. “I am standing in the center and have decided to vote Present.”
“I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” she continued.
“I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”
Gabbard also said that she had introduced a censure resolution, which is basically a strong rebuke of the president.
She claimed that the resolution would send a message to Trump and future presidents while still leaving the question of removal to voters in 2020.
“My vote today is a vote for much-needed reconciliation and hope that together we can heal our country,” she concluded.
Gabbard’s decision still drew a lot of criticism from Democrats, and the topic trended on Twitter with hashtags that included #TulsiCoward and #TulsiIsARussianAsset.
Questions of Fairness in Senate Trial
With the Houses’ decision to impeach Trump, the process will now be passed off to the Senate, where a trial will be held.
Even before the House voted to pass the articles, the Senate was already gearing up to hold the impeachment trial.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rejected Democrat’s demands to call four White House officials as witnesses.
He argued there were no reasons for the Senate to agree to hear testimony from officials who could help the Democrats’ case. The move was condemned by many Democrats.
McConnell also was criticized Tuesday for telling reporters that he would not be impartial in the impeachment trial.
“I’m not an impartial juror,” he said. “This is a political process. I’m not impartial about this at all.”
McConnell’s actions have raised more questions about whether or not Senate Republicans will hold a fair trial.
Pelosi Delays Sending Impeachment Articles to Senate
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also appeared to share that concern.
After the House approved the articles, Pelosi said Wednesday night that she would delay sending them to the Senate until it is clear that the upper chamber would conduct a fair trial.
The move appears to be an effort to slow down the impeachment process and force Senate Republicans to set procedures that Democrats find more favorable.
“So far, we have not seen anything that looks fair to us, so hopefully, it will be fairer, and when we see what that is, we will send it over that matter,” she said.
Many Republicans reacted angrily to Pelosi’s decision, including Trump.
“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up!” the president wrote on Twitter.
McConnell also attacked the move in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.
“It was made even made clear last night when Speaker Pelosi suggested that House Democrats may be too afraid, too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate,” he said.
“Mr. President, looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country, and second-guessing whether they want to do to trial.”
But Pelosi doubled-down on her stance while speaking at a press conference Thursday, where she also responded to McConnell’s accusations.
“It reminded me that our founders, when they wrote the Constitution, they suspected there could be a rogue president,” she said, referring to McConnell’s speech. “I don’t think they suspected that we could have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.”
McConnell and other Republican Senate leaders had initially said they wanted to hold the trial in January and make it as fast as possible.
Now, Pelosi’s plan to hold the articles until the Senate outlines a procedure the Democrats support could complicate that timeline.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Politico) (Fox News)
Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium
The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.
Eviction Freeze Set To Expire
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.
The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.
While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.
In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress.
“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Delays in Relief Distribution
The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.
Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires.
The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape.
Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.
According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 — including New York — had not spent any funds at all.
Slim Chances in Congress
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.
However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.
While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks
The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.
Pelosi Vetoes Republicans
Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.
In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”
Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden.
A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.
The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.
In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.
McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation
McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.
In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.”
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.