House poised to pass resolution urging Pence to invoke 25th Amendment, as Dems speed toward impeaching Trump

Tom Benning

The Dallas Morning News

The House is poised on Tuesday evening to pass a searing resolution that urges Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to expel President Donald Trump over his incitement of the violent mob that last week stormed the Capitol.

The Democrat-run chamber is also barreling ahead with plans to impeach Trump – for an unprecedented second time – on Wednesday if Pence doesn’t act in the intervening hours.

With just over a week left in Trump’s tumultuous one-term presidency, Democratic lawmakers from Texas and beyond are channeling their unbridled fury over the Capitol insurrection into a frenetic attempt to secure the Republican’s removal.

“The president has lost whatever moral authority he had and is unfit as commander in chief,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston. “His actions to incite violence against his own government and against the entire Congress warrants removal from office.”

All 13 Texas Democrats in Congress are backing the efforts to encourage Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment or else to impeach Trump. It’s unclear how many GOP members might join in, or if any Texas Republicans in Congress will do so.

Several Lone Star State conservatives cautioned against proceeding down such a path.

“Dragging our country through yet another impeachment will only further divide us and neglect real issues the American people are confronting on a daily basis,” said freshman Rep. Beth Van Duyne, an Irving Republican who accused Democrats of “political theater.”

But some Democrats barely contained their anger over the GOP’s calls for unity, just days after Trump and his allies spurred a riot amid Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election.

“As I see it, the only divide in our politics that matters right now is between those who believe in democracy and those who do not,” Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, wrote in an uncharacteristically sharp message on Twitter. “All other differences now pale in comparison.”

To those “who still believe in our democracy,” he continued, “in me you will have a partner.”

“To those who don’t, however, including some I considered friends, until you fully renounce the efforts to overthrow our democracy, know that I will oppose you at every turn and history will judge you more harshly than you can imagine,” Allred said.

While the House took steps on Tuesday toward impeaching Trump a second time – which would be a first in American history – the president traveled to South Texas to tout his border wall.

The ongoing developments down Pennsylvania Avenue, however, didn’t escape his notice. Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for his trip, Trump criticized the potential impeachment as a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”

“For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, to continue on this path, it’s causing tremendous danger to our country,” the president said, referring to the House speaker and the Senate minority leader, both Democrats. “It’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence.”

Days before, Trump stoked the anger of his supporters who believed his unfounded claims that widespread voter fraud led to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, telling a rally on the National Mall that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump urged the crowd to march on the Capitol, where some Republicans were objecting to the certified Electoral College votes in key swing states that delivered the White House to Biden.

Rioters soon breached the Capitol, overwhelming law enforcement. The mob trashed the building, forcing lawmakers to flee their respective chambers to secret locations. Five people died in the chaos; among them was Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.

Lawmakers reconvened that night after the Capitol was secured. Both the House and the Senate rejected the attempts to overturn the election results, though 17 Republicans from Texas were among those who objected to the electoral votes in either Arizona or Pennsylvania.

Trump has disclaimed responsibility for his rhetoric or the resulting riot, saying on Tuesday that “people thought that what I said was totally appropriate.”

Many lawmakers, including some Republicans, felt differently. Even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who led the objection effort in the Senate, said that Trump’s rhetoric was “reckless” and “irresponsible” and that the president “plainly bears some responsibility.”

Once it became clear that Trump would not resign, many members of Congress began to call on Pence to take the extraordinary step of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. The House’s vote on Tuesday night will formalize the request for that action.

“The president has shown himself to be incapable of executing the duties of his office and should be removed,” said Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville.

Democrats on Monday had sought to pass the resolution on the 25th Amendment by unanimous consent. But Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., objected, forcing the roll call vote on Tuesday night and underscoring the fact that many Republicans remain reluctant to cross Trump.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, said those pushing to remove the president were “placing a desire for vengeance above the best interests of the country.”

“Those calling for impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment in response to President Trump’s rhetoric … are themselves engaging in intemperate and inflammatory language and calling for action that is equally irresponsible and could well incite further violence,” he said.

Pence, who was among those endangered by the Capitol insurrection, has not publicly stated a position on the 25th Amendment, which would be the quickest way to remove the president. But most experts and political observers agree that it’s unlikely Pence would invoke that process.

That’s why the House decided to proceed on a parallel track toward impeachment, teeing up a historic vote on Wednesday.

“Donald Trump instigated a violent attack against America, demonstrating he is unstable, unhinged, and dangerous,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said. “Congress will act against this imminent threat and hold this seditious president accountable.”

Terrell Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican and staunch Trump supporter, countered that “impeachment is a further step in the wrong direction.”

“Rhetoric could and should be toned down, but President Trump is no more responsible for these riots than Nancy Pelosi is for the summer riots that destroyed many businesses across our nation,” he said. “Everyone needs to calm down and come together.”

Whatever such debate may play out, the House on Wednesday will impeach Trump, barring some unforeseen complication. But it’s unclear what will happen in the Senate, which in February voted to acquit Trump after the House impeached him over his Ukraine dealings.

It’s likely that an impeachment trial in Senate would extend beyond Trump’s White House tenure, complicating Biden’s agenda for his first 100 days in office. A two-thirds majority is also needed in the Senate to convict, meaning that several Republicans would have to join the push.

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