- Kevin Diaz The New York Times
The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to block an impeachment resolution brought by Houston Democrat Al Green to remove President Donald Trump from office.
By a vote of 364 to 58, lawmakers approved a GOP motion to table Green's resolution, effectively killing it. In all, only 58 Democrats — including Houston's Sheila Jackson Lee — sided with Green. Four others, including Texans Joaquin Castro and Marc Veasey, voted "present."
Green's effort, citing "bigotry, hatred and hostility from the president," was strongly opposed by House Democratic leaders, who considered it premature and potentially counterproductive.
Nevertheless, the vote put some rank-and-file Democrats on the spot, caught between antipathy for the president and a desire to see multiple investigations of Trump's alleged Russia ties run their course.
Despite the push-back from leaders in his own party, Green pressed on in what amounted to his third attempt at impeachment.
"For too long, we have allowed our civility to prevent us from confronting the invidious incivility of President Donald J. Trump," Green wrote in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday. "In doing this, hatred disguised as an acceptable political correctness has festered in our body politic and polluted our discourse to our detriment."
Green, wearing an American flag tie, read his entire resolution on the House floor shortly after noon Wednesday. He outlined two articles of impeachment: one for "associating the presidency with white nationalism, neo-Nazism and hatred;" and another for "inciting hatred and hostility."
Under House rules, a "privileged" resolution for impeachment triggers almost immediate consideration - generally, within two legislative days. GOP leaders had signaled in advance their intention to quickly table the measure, which they did.
With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, there remains virtually no chance Trump could be impeached, barring new developments in the House, Senate or Justice Department probes of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
For Democrats, the GOP's procedural motion to table Green's resolution forced them into the awkward position of having to go on the record on a politically fraught impeachment motion.
Kentucky Republican Harold Rogers, who was presiding over the House when Green read his resolution, held off on announcing any immediate move. But two hours later, the vote was on.
While a few other liberals have called for Trump's impeachment, most Democrats said they favored letting the congressional and special counsel investigations run their course.
In a statement before the vote, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that while "legitimate questions have been raised about (Trump's) fitness to lead this nation," she urged rank-and-file Democrats to kill Green's resolution.
"Right now, congressional committees continue to be deeply engaged in investigations into the president's actions both before and after his inauguration," Pelosi said. "The special counsel's investigation is moving forward, as well, and those inquiries should be allowed to continue. Now is not the time to consider articles of impeachment."
Houston Democrat Gene Green, an ally of Al Green, was among the 126 Democrats who voted to kill the impeachment resolution, saying, "we should allow our judicial institutions to do their job before we begin to debate impeachment of the president."
Besides Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, two other Texas Democrats voted for impeachment: Lloyd Doggett, of Austin, and Filemon Vela, of Brownsville. El Paso Democrat Beto O'Rourke, running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Texas Republican Ted Cruz, joined four other Texas Democrats in voting to table Green's resolution.
Despite divisions within his own caucus, Green repeatedly has talked of impeaching Trump, which he cast as a moral and historical imperative, even if it only has symbolic value.
The vote was the first time the House has been called to formally consider impeachment since a pair of Democrats introduced articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush in 2008. That effort died in committee.
Only two presidents have been impeached in the House: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Neither was convicted by the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned before an impeachment measure went before the full House.
Green backed down under pressure from an earlier effort to impeach Trump in October. That came after an earlier push, which he postponed out of respect for the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
This time, he forced a vote few Democrats wanted to take.
"As I have said before, this is not about Democrats. It is about democracy," he told his colleagues. "It is not about Republicans. It is about the fate of our Republic. May everyone vote their conscience knowing that history will judge us all."
Green acknowledged that his case against Trump relies not on allegations of criminal wrongdoing, but on divisive words and acts that he said undermine social stability.
He made no mention of obstruction of justice, collusion, or any other potential crimes stemming from Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and its alleged ties to Russia.
"Impeachment is a political remedy, not a judicial remedy," he said in his letter to colleagues. "Thus, it may be a high misdemeanor, which may or may not be a crime."
Green's eight-page resolution recounted a series of Trump controversies, starting with his statement that white nationalists and Ku Klux Klansmen protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August included some "very fine people."
He also cited Trump's statements criticizing National Football League players who have knelt in protest during the national anthem, his travel ban directed at several majority-Muslim nations, his order blocking transgender people from serving in the military, and his recent decision to share three anti-Muslim videos posted by the leader of an anti-immigrant British political party.
In the NFL dispute, Green seized on Trump's statement calling for the firing of any "son of a bitch" who disrespects the flag. Green's resolution said that amounts to calling the protesters' mothers — the majority of them black — "bitches."
That passage prompted the House Reading Clerk to spell out the offensive language rather than read the words aloud on the House floor.
"My friends, like it or not, we have elected a bigot as president," Green said during a morning C-SPAN call-in show just before he went on the House floor.
Green, 70, born in New Orleans, reminded viewers that he grew up in the segregated South. "I know what invidious racism looks like. I know what it sounds like. I even know what it tastes like."