News

Pelosi picks impeachment squad; House votes to send articles to Senate

WASHINGTON — An Army veteran, a former cop and a congressional aide during the Nixon impeachment proceedings are among the U.S. House Democrats who will soon make the case for ousting President Donald Trump from office.

The U.S. House on Wednesday approved a resolution that named seven impeachment managers to serve as prosecutors in the upcoming Senate trial against Trump. The resolution also triggers the transmission of the impeachment articles to the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the roster of impeachment managers on Wednesday ahead of the floor vote.

“Today, I have the privilege of naming the managers of the impeachment trial of the president,” Pelosi said. “It is their responsibility to present the very strong case for the president’s impeachment and removal. The impeachment managers represent the patriotism, pluralism and vibrancy of America.”

The roster includes House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who have led the House impeachment investigations. Another manager, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), was on the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and she was a committee aide during the Nixon impeachment proceedings in the 1970s.

The other managers: Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a former litigator; Val Demings of Florida, a former Orlando police chief; House freshman and former U.S. Army ranger, Jason Crow of Colorado; and Sylvia Garcia of Texas, another freshman and former presiding judge of the Houston Municipal System.

Pelosi selected fewer House managers than there were during the Clinton impeachment proceedings; there were 13 Republican managers during Clinton’s Senate trial.

The Senate trial against Trump is expected to get underway as early as next Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed House Democrats Wednesday as the chamber prepared to send the impeachment articles to the upper chamber.

“Speaker Pelosi and the House have taken our nation down a dangerous road,” McConnell said. “If the Senate blesses this unprecedented and dangerous House process by agreeing that an incomplete case and subjective basis are enough to impeach a president, we will almost guarantee the impeachment of every future president.”

Robin Bravender is the Washington bureau chief for the States Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member.

News, Trump Administration

U.S. House votes to check Trump on military action against Iran — What you need to know

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

North Carolina delegation splits along party lines

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Thursday on a resolution to curtail President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without first securing congressional approval.

The chamber voted 224-194, largely along party lines, to approve the resolution from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), which would direct Trump to halt the use of U.S. armed forces for hostilities against Iran unless it’s authorized by Congress or it’s “necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent armed attack” against the United States.

The vote on the resolution came days after Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time. Military officials said Suleimani had active plans to kill Americans, but Trump’s critics in Congress have said the evidence of such a threat hasn’t been sufficient to risk a U.S. war against Iran.

“Last week in our view, the president, the administration conducted a provocative, disproportionate air strike against Iran, which endangered Americans and did so without consulting Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday ahead of the vote. “The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence. America and the world cannot afford war.”

With one exception (GOP Rep. Mark Walker, who did not vote, but who later issued a statement attacking the resolution), North Carolina’s delegation split along party lines in the vote, with the state’s Republican House members opposing the resolution and Democrats supporting the resolution to limit the president’s military power.

Three Republicans and Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash joined Democrats to vote for the resolution. Eight Democrats voted against the measure.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, was among the Republicans who supported the Democratic-led effort.

“If the members of our armed services have the courage to go and fight and die in these wars, as Congress, we ought to have the courage to vote for them or against them,” Gaetz said. “I support the president. Killing Suleimani was the right decision but engaging in another forever war in the Middle East would be the wrong decision.”

Another Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, said ahead of the vote that his decision to vote for the resolution wasn’t “about supporting or opposing President Trump.”

Massie voted for Trump in 2016 and he plans to vote for him again, he said. “This vote is about exercising our constitutional authority, but more importantly, our moral obligation to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives.”

‘Constitutional responsibility’ 

Slotkin, a freshman Democrat and a former CIA analyst, said the resolution was more than a theoretical exercise for her. Slotkin’s husband is a U.S. Army veteran, her step-daughter is an Army officer and her son-in-law’s unit is stationed at Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq, which was targeted by Iranian missiles this week, she said.

“If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation,” Slotkin said. She stressed that her resolution doesn’t tie the president’s hands when it comes to defending the United States. But when it comes to longer-term war, “We have a constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of military force.” Read more

News, Trump Administration

‘Real rush’ of Trump rules expected ahead of 2020 election

WASHINGTON — The administration is preparing to finalize a host of high-profile rules in 2020, including policies that will impact everything from auto emissions to food stamp access.

With the November presidential election approaching, the administration is widely expected to make a push to wrap up pending regulations early in 2020 in an effort to bolster those rules against a possible Democratic administration that may seek to unravel Trump’s policies.

“There’s going to be a real rush this spring,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a limited-government advocacy group. Ebell led the Trump administration’s transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following Trump’s 2016 election. “They want to get everything final and the litigation started before mid-May,” he added.

If Trump loses in the November contest, his opponents would likely try to halt regulations using legislative and legal tools. Congress can overturn recently finalized rules, and the executive branch can move to walk back rules that are mired in court challenges.

In the coming months, “there’s probably going to be a push [by the Trump administration] to try to finalize anything that’s already been proposed,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory expert at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

Trump administration officials have been effective at overturning the work of their predecessors.

With the help of the GOP-led Congress, the administration effectively torpedoed a slew of Obama-era regulations. After Trump’s inauguration, GOP lawmakers used the Congressional Review Act to overturn 16 Obama rules, according to the Center for Progressive Reform. That law had been used only once before that, when the George W. Bush administration overturned a Clinton-era rule dealing with workplace safety.

Regulatory experts predict the administration is working hard behind the scenes to ensure that their own policies aren’t as vulnerable. Trump’s roadmap was laid out in a recent regulatory timeline, which estimates the dates for finalizing federal agencies’ rules.

Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy Trump regulations expected in 2020:

Food stamp restrictions 

The Trump administration came under fire for critics in December when it finalized one of three rules expected to dramatically reduce access to food stamps nationwide.

The administration is also expected to finalize the elimination of another policy that allows people to automatically qualify for food stamps if they receive certain other benefits. A third food stamp proposal would change how utility costs factor into benefit calculations.

Combined, the administration’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules could lead to 3.7 million fewer people receiving food stamp benefits nationwide, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute.

The two additional policies are expected to be finalized in May, according to the administration’s timeline.

Climate rule rollback

The administration is expected to soon finalize its overhaul of Obama-era greenhouse gas limits and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks. Trump officials have called the Obama policy too costly, but the revisions have drawn a backlash from environmentalists and other critics.

The final regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are expected in April, according to the administration’s timeline. The administration proposed freezing fuel economy standards through 2026 — reversing a major Obama climate rule that would have forced automakers to dramatically boost their fleets’ fuel economy by 2025.

Trump’s final rules are expected to modestly boost fuel efficiency in comparison with the proposal, Reuters reported, but the requirements are still expected to be far weaker than the Obama rules.

Health care

Early in 2020, the Trump administration is planning to finalize its rollback of an Obama-era rule barring health care providers from discriminating against transgender people.

The Obama administration rule barred discrimination based on “gender identity,” but the Trump administration’s draft replacement rule asserts that federal laws banning sex discrimination in health care don’t apply to people’s “gender identity,” NBC reported.

Critics of the draft policy from the Department of Health and Human Services warn that it will hinder access to medical care for transgender people. The Obama rule bans health insurers from restricting services that help people transition from one gender to another, according to The New York Times.

Campus sexual assault 

A contentious rule dealing with campus sexual assault is also expected to be issued soon.

The final rule from the Education Department is expected to give new rights to students accused of sexual assault, The Washington Post reported in November. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said when she issued the proposal, “Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

Opponents of the policy have warned that it’ll prevent reporting of sexual assault and harassment and won’t do enough to protect women on campuses. The final rule was slated for release in November 2019, according to the regulatory calendar, but has been delayed.

News

DC update: The full story of the House impeachment vote (including statements from NC reps)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said ahead of the vote that “the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary.”

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday night, making him the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.

Trump was impeached on largely party line votes on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress. The charges surround allegations that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival in an effort to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

No House Republicans voted to adopt either impeachment article. Two House Democrats voted against both articles of impeachment — Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. Van Drew was reportedly planning to switch parties to become a Republican. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted yes on the first article but against the obstruction of Congress article. Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on both articles.

North Carolina’s delegation voted entirely along party lines.  Democratic Reps. Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price voted in support of both impeachment articles. Republicans Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Virginia Foxx, George Holding, Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry, Mark Meadows, Greg Murphy, David Rouzer, and Mark Walker voted against both articles.

The vote came after a lengthy and heated debate on the House floor, as Democrats warned that Trump had trampled on the U.S. Constitution, while his GOP defenders accused the House majority of manufacturing a case for impeachment due to their disdain for Trump’s policies.

“The founders’ great fear of a rogue or corrupt president is the very reason why they enshrined impeachment in the Constitution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”

Only two other presidents had previously been impeached by the House: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both of those presidents were acquitted by the Senate.

Trump also appears to be headed for acquittal in the GOP-led Senate. A trial, in which House Democrats will argue their case before the upper chamber of Congress, is expected to begin next month.

Some senators have been cautious about stating whether they’ll vote to remove Trump from office, arguing that they’ll be jurors in the trial and don’t want to prejudge the outcome. But not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

McConnell told reporters Tuesday that he is “not at all impartial” on impeachment and that it is a “political process.”

As lawmakers prepared to vote on Wednesday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”

Trump held a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., on Wednesday night. “By the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached, the country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like never before,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post.

Democrats delivered sharper rebukes of the president, arguing that failing to impeach Trump would set a precedent that other presidents could invite foreign interference in U.S. elections.

“I know the president said that he can get away with anything he wants to. I come today to tell you that no, he cannot, because no one is above the law and he shall be held accountable,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who was involved in the House investigation of the Ukraine scandal.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that in his nearly 40 years in the House under six presidential administrations, he never expected to “encounter such an obvious wrongdoing by a president of the United States. Nor did I expect to witness such a craven rationalization of presidential actions which have put our national security at risk, undermined the integrity of our elections and defied the constitutional authority of the Congress to conduct oversight.”

Republicans, meanwhile, spent the debate accusing their Democratic colleagues of pursuing a political vendetta against the president, pointing frequently to statements Democrats had made supporting impeachment before the Ukraine investigation was launched.

“Why do we keep calling this a solemn occasion, when you’ve been wanting to do this ever since [Trump]  was elected?” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

“The president has been driving these guys crazy because he’s getting things done,” said Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “When you drain the swamp, the swamp fights back. They started attacking the president before the election even.”

Democrats vehemently denied GOP attacks that they were pursuing impeachment because they hate Trump’s policies or dislike him personally.

“I don’t hate the president, but I love my country and I have no other choice,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “Voting for these articles of impeach is the only moral course of action, the only way to honor our oath of office. I have no doubt that the votes I cast today will stand the test of time.”

One independent congressman, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, sided with Democrats to vote for both articles of impeachment. Amash, who helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus, left the GOP earlier this year after calling for Trump’s impeachment.

Trump’s “actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment, and it is our duty to impeach him,” Amash said Wednesday on the House floor.

Here are some selected quotes from North Carolina representatives: Read more

News

U.S. House Judiciary Committee votes to impeach Trump

(L-R) House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA) speak to each other during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker – Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Friday morning along party lines, setting up a likely vote next week in the full House.

The Judiciary Committee voted 23-17 entirely along party lines to advance the two articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in response to allegations that he improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and blocked lawmakers’ efforts to investigate the incident. 

No North Carolina lawmakers serve on the committee.

The roll call came after two days of heated sparring among members on the committee. Democrats declared that Trump gave them no choice but to move ahead on the impeachment articles. Republicans, meanwhile, remained steadfast in their defense of the president, arguing that Democrats had their sights set on impeachment since Trump’s inauguration.

The full House is expected to pass the articles on the House floor next week ahead of a congressional recess. That vote is also expected to be largely partisan, with the likely defection of some moderate Democrats.

If the articles pass the House, Trump will become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House, following Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. President Richard Nixon resigned after the Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him, but before the full House held a vote.

The U.S. Senate is expected to hold an impeachment trial early next year. Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the GOP-led chamber, but the vote is likely to be a difficult one for some vulnerable Republican senators facing tough reelection fights in 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Fox News Thursday night that there’s “no chance the President is going to be removed from office.”

Ahead of Friday’s committee vote, Democrats called impeachment their solemn duty, arguing that Congress couldn’t let Trump’s behavior stand.

“The reason that we’re moving forward on articles of impeachment is that the president of the United States abused his power by soliciting foreign interference in his own reelection, thereby cheating American voters,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).

“Look, if President Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not impeachable, nothing is,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.). “The primary check on a president becoming a king is elections. This president abused his powers to undermine our elections.”

Republicans accused their colleagues in the majority of failing to provide convincing evidence against the president, and they introduced a series of amendments attacking the articles, all of which were voted down Thursday by the Democratic majority.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, called the panel a “rubber stamp” for Democrats’ agenda. He accused Democrats of defining the abuse of power as “anything they want it to mean.” Democrats “don’t care, facts be damned,” he said.

As the epic vote headed into its 12th hour on Thursday night, Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) lamented, “I have not heard a new point or an original thought from either side in the last three hours. The same talking points have been repeated over and over again, ad nauseum, by both sides.” He offered a suggestion: “If no one has anything new to add they resist the temptation to inflict what we’ve already heard over and over again.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) surprised the GOP by adjourning the vote late Thursday night, declaring that the vote would be held Friday morning. Republicans on the committee were furious, accusing Nadler of upending schedules and failing to consult them about their plans. Read more