WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Wednesday voted to hold two of President Donald Trump’s top officials in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents related to the administration’s plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
However, the body refused to consider impeachment articles against President Trump, with most Democrats (including all of Virginia’s Democratic delegation) siding with Republicans to kill the effort.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th, who backs an impeachment inquiry, said Congress must “marshal our best evidence” first.
I will continue to advocate for an impeachment inquiry including investigatory hearings, document production, and witness testimony which we need to fully and fairly evaluate the case for impeaching President Trump.
We need to do this, and we need to do it right.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) July 18, 2019
The chamber voted 230-198, largely along partisan lines, to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt after they failed to comply with subpoenas from House Democrats.
Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash joined Democrats in voting for contempt. Four Democrats voted against the resolution: Reps. Anthony Brindisi of New York, Jared Golden of Maine, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania and Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey.
The vote marks House Democrats’ latest rebuke against Trump as the White House continues to defy their oversight requests. The contempt vote is primarily symbolic, as Trump’s Justice Department isn’t expected to pursue charges against the officials.
A cabinet secretary and the Attorney General of the United States refused to comply with Congressional subpoenas, and we’re holding them accountable.
No one is above the law in America—that includes Secretary Ross and AG Barr.https://t.co/TRJ2EyRdwJ
— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) July 17, 2019
Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) urged increased oversight of the administration. “My Republican friends abrogated any accountability, any oversight of this administration in the two years they were in the majority and Mr. Trump was in the White House.”
Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of using contempt votes to score political points.
“We’re using this as a political tool, and we’re better than that,” said Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a top Republican on the oversight panel.
The battle over the citizenship question has been fought on several fronts, with lawmakers seeking documents while a lawsuit wound through the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court last month delayed the addition of a citizenship question to the census, citing problems with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ rationale for doing so.
Despite declaring victory in that case, Democrats and other Trump opponents want more information from the administration, insisting that top officials were attempting to deter people — particularly immigrants — from responding to the census, which could drastically skew the count. Evidence unearthed from the files of a GOP operative suggests the question’s origins lie in an attempt to create an advantage for Republicans in redistricting.
Ross has said that the plan to revive a citizenship question on the 2020 census was an attempt to bolster the Voting Rights Act.
Trump ‘unfit to be president’
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) attempted to use a procedural mechanism on the House floor to prod his colleagues to vote on his impeachment resolution stating that Trump “is unfit to be President and warrants impeachment, trial, and removal from office.”
But the House voted 332-95 in favor of a “motion to table” the effort, effectively killing the resolution. Only 95 Democrats supported Greens’ effort, with 137 Democrats joining 194 Republicans and Michigan independent Justin Amash to table the resolution.
It comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats have urged the caucus to tread slowly on impeachment efforts. Even many of the Democrats who back an impeachment “inquiry” — a first step toward a floor vote on impeachment — say they want to spend time building a solid record against Trump in the House Judiciary Committee.
Green’s resolution specifically condemned Trump for his recent racist comments after the president told four Democratic members of Congress to “go back” to other countries.
Wednesday’s vote is expected to intensify the debate between the Democratic lawmakers who are anxious to move on impeachment and those — including some moderates who flipped Republian seats in November — who are wary of political pitfalls.
Trump derided impeachment supporters after the vote.
“The United States House of Representatives has just overwhelmingly voted to kill the Resolution on Impeachment, 332-95-1. This is perhaps the most ridiculous and time consuming project I have ever had to work on,” he wrote on Twitter. “This should never be allowed to happen to another president of the United States again!”
Editor Robert Zullo contributed.