house vote

Democrat stops just short of forcing House vote on Trump’s impeachment

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/democrat-stops-just-short-of-forcing-house-vote-on-trumps-impeachment/2017/10/11/23b998ba-aea6-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.d96a9fa170a0

 

A Democratic congressman stopped just short of forcing a House vote on President Trump’s impeachment Wednesday, pulling back under apparent pressure from his own party.

Rep. Al Green (Tex.) read his impeachment resolution on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, bringing it up under rules that would force a rapid vote. But less than an hour later when the House’s presiding officer called up the resolution for action, Green did not appear on the floor to offer it.

Green said to reporters afterward that he had wanted to allow more time for his colleagues to review the resolution before it was voted on, and he suggested that the House floor staff had misled him about the timing of that vote.

“Before I left the floor, there was an understanding with the parliamentarian and other persons who were there that it would not be voted on immediately,” he said.

According to multiple House Democratic aides, party leaders had prevailed upon Green not to offer the resolution and thus force his colleagues to cast a potentially troublesome vote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders have sought to tamp down calls for Trump’s impeachment, citing ongoing investigations into his campaign and administration being pursued by congressional committees and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Any move to impeach before those probes are complete, they have said, would be premature.

“I’m not an impeachment enthusiast,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the assistant Democratic leader and highest-ranking African American in the House, noting that Republicans hold the majority. “Where are you going to get the majority of the votes? So it’s just an empty gesture.”

Republicans, on the other hand, were happy to schedule a vote. GOP aides said they planned to move to table Green’s resolution, killing it outright.

A vote to table Green’s resolution could have forced Democrats to explain to anti-Trump voters why they opposed removing the president from office, while a vote against tabling could have required them to explain to more-moderate voters why they took action against the president while investigations are underway.

“Many members are telling him that this is a fruitless effort and will end in a complicated vote that cannot be easily explained,” a senior Democratic aide had said. “Members don’t want this vote.”

Green, who first announced his intention to pursue impeachment last month, said he had not been asked to stand down before he came to the floor Wednesday. But he declined to say whether he had been approached after he gave his remarks.

“Any discussions I may have had are private, and I will not discuss them,” Green told reporters Wednesday, adding that he felt “not one scintilla” of pressure from party leaders.

Green did not rule out forcing a future vote on his resolution: “I will not indicate when, but I will indicate that it will be brought up.”

In nearly 20 minutes of floor remarks Wednesday, Green inveighed against Trump for having “produced a demonstrable record of inciting white supremacy, sexism, bigotry, hatred, xenophobia, race-baiting and racism by demeaning, defaming, disrespecting and disparaging women and certain minorities.”

“In so doing,” Green continued, Trump “has fueled and is fueling an alt-right hate machine and his worldwide covert sympathizers, engendering racial antipathy, LGTBQ enmity, religious anxiety, stealthy sexism and dreadful xenophobia, perfidiously causing immediate injury to American society.”

Green told The Washington Post in an interview last month that he was compelled to pursue articles of impeachment after seeing Trump denigrate pro football players who have engaged in silent protests during the playing of the national anthem before games. That, he said, was the final straw after what he saw as a string of impeachable offenses.

“There were many, many things that could have been the straw,” he said. “But these comments about free speech, which is something I cherish, they have caused me to conclude that now is the time to let the world know that there is at least one person in the Congress who believes that the president has gone too far.”

Green initially planned to file the resolution last week but delayed his plans after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

There are no indications that Green’s resolution has anywhere near the majority support needed to pass, but even if it did, Trump would not be immediately ousted. The Senate would hold a trial based on the House impeachment article and ultimately decide whether the president should be removed from office.

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Trump Tells G.O.P. It’s Now or Never, Demanding House Vote on Health Bill

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

The demand, issued by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, in an evening meeting with House Republicans, came after a marathon day of negotiating at the White House and in the Capitol in which Mr. Trump — who has boasted of his deal-making prowess — fell short of selling members of his own party on the health plan.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan emerged from the session and announced curtly that Mr. Trump would get his wish for a vote on Friday. Mr. Ryan refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he expected the measure to pass.

Although the House Republicans’ closed-door meeting became a cheerleading session for the bill, their leaders braced for a showdown on the floor, knowing they were likely to be at least a handful of votes short of a majority for the health insurance bill and would need to muscle their colleagues to the last to prevail.

Some conservatives were still concerned that the bill was too costly and did not do enough to roll back federal health insurance mandates. Moderates and others, meanwhile, were grappling with worries of their states’ governors and fretted that the loss of benefits would be too much for their constituents to bear.

Mr. Ryan had earlier postponed the initial House vote that was scheduled for Thursday to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s signing. Mr. Trump confronted the possibility of a humiliating loss on the first significant legislative push of his presidency.

At a White House meeting with members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus earlier on Thursday, Mr. Trump had agreed to the conservatives’ demands to strip federal health insurance requirements for basic benefits such as maternity care, emergency services, mental health and wellness visits from the bill. But that was not enough to placate the faction, part of the reason that Thursday’s vote was placed on hold.

As House leaders struggled to negotiate with holdouts in the hopes of rescheduling the vote, Mr. Trump sent senior officials to the Capitol with a blunt message: He would agree to no additional changes, and Republicans must either support the bill or resign themselves to leaving President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement in place.

“We have a great bill, and I think we have a good chance, but it’s only politics,” Mr. Trump said earlier Thursday, as it was becoming clear that his negotiating efforts had failed to persuade enough members of his party to back the plan — which was years in the making — to repeal and replace the health law.

Privately, White House officials conceded that competing Republican factions were each demanding changes that could doom the effort, placing the measure in peril and Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding at a high-stakes legislative deal in jeopardy. With some of its demands in place, the Freedom Caucus ratcheted up its requests, insisting on a repeal of all regulatory mandates in the Affordable Care Act, including the prohibition on excluding coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and lifetime coverage caps.

Mr. Trump, who has touted his negotiating skills and invited the label “the closer” as the vote approached, was receiving a painful reality check about the difficulty of governing, even with his own party in power on Capitol Hill.

“Guys, we’ve got one shot here,” he told members of the Freedom Caucus at a meeting in the Cabinet Room, according to a person present in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private. “This is it — we’re voting now.”

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, spoke to reporters on Wednesday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“The choice is yes or no,” Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas and a member of the Freedom Caucus, said on Thursday night. “I’m not going to vote no to keep Obamacare. That’d be a stupid damn vote.”

Others were unconvinced.

Having secured Mr. Trump’s acquiescence to eliminate the requirement that insurers offer “essential health benefits,” members of the Freedom Caucus pressed their advantage. While they did not specify precisely which regulations they wanted to eliminate, the section they wanted to gut requires coverage for pre-existing health conditions, allows individuals to remain on their parents’ health care plans up to age 26, bars insurers from setting different rates for men and women, prohibits annual or lifetime limits on benefits, and requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on medical care.

“We’re committed to stay here until we get it done,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “So whether the vote is tonight, tomorrow or five days from here, the president will get a victory.”

He said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote “no”; House leaders can afford to lose only 22 in order to pass the bill.

But for every concession Mr. Trump made to appease critics on the right, he lost potential rank-and-file supporters in the middle, including members of the centrist Tuesday Group who had balked at the bill’s Medicaid cuts and slashed insurance benefits. Moderate Republicans in that group went to the White House on Thursday but emerged unmoved in their opposition.

“There’s a little bit of a balancing act,” conceded Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

Representative Leonard Lance, Republican of New Jersey, said he still opposed the bill because he did not believe it would give people “complete and affordable access” to health insurance.

At the same time, a new estimate of the bill’s cost and its impact on health coverage further soured the picture for wavering lawmakers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday issued a report on the revised version of the health care bill showing that it would cost more than the original version but would not cover more people. The report said the bill, like the original version, would result in 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance in 2026 than under current law.

But recent changes to the bill, made through a series of amendments introduced on Monday, would cut its deficit savings in half. Instead of reducing the deficit by $337 billion, the new version of the bill would save only $150 billion over the decade.

The budget office did not consider the effects of various additional changes that remain under negotiation, including eliminating benefit requirements and other health insurance regulations.

A Quinnipiac University national poll found that voters disapproved of the Republican plan by lopsided margins, with 56 percent opposed, 17 percent supportive and 26 percent undecided. The measure did not even draw support among a majority of Republicans; 41 percent approved, while 24 percent were opposed.

President Trump appealed to supporters to weigh in, assuring them in a video on Twitter, “Go with our plan. It’s going to be terrific.”

The chaotic process that unfolded on Thursday exposed Republicans to criticism that they were moving recklessly in a desperate bid to get their plan passed. Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho and a Freedom Caucus member, said the party’s leaders had tried to ram through the measure over their members’ objections. He panned what he described as a “brute force” strategy that resembled the approach of former Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio.

“It’s better to get it right than to get it fast,” Mr. Labrador said.

It was not clear that the changes that Mr. Trump has agreed to and those being demanded could survive. Under the strict budget rules being used to advance the bill, changes to the Affordable Care Act must affect federal spending or revenues. Regulatory measures that affect private health policies, not government programs like Medicaid, are highly likely to be challenged by Senate Democrats. If the Senate parliamentarian rules in the Democrats’ favor, those changes in the House would be stripped from the bill.

The emerging power of the Freedom Caucus, a group that has been historically marginalized in policy making but a thorn in the side of leadership, is one of the surprises of the rushed health care debate. The group has been empowered by the addition of Mr. Mulvaney to the senior White House staff, and Mr. Trump’s disengagement from policy details, coupled with his intense desire to score a win after a rocky start to his presidency.

Mr. Obama stepped into the fray on Thursday with a lengthy defense of his law on the seventh anniversary of its signing, and a call for bipartisan improvements.

“I’ve always said we should build on this law, just as Americans of both parties worked to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years,” he wrote in a mass email to followers. “So if Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they’re prepared to work with Democrats and objective evaluators in finding solutions that accomplish those goals — that’s something we all should welcome.”

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide “essential health benefits” in 10 broad categories, including maternity care, mental health care, addiction treatment, preventive services, emergency services and rehabilitative services.

Mr. Spicer defended the removal of the “essential health benefits” regulations, saying that it would accomplish Mr. Trump’s stated goal of reducing health care costs. “Part of the reason that premiums have spiked out of control is because under Obamacare there were these mandated services that had to be included,” Mr. Spicer said.

Family planning groups and advocates for women’s rights criticized Republican plans to roll back these requirements.

“Paul Ryan and his House members are willing to sell out the moms of America to pass this bill,” said Dawn Laguens, an executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Conservatives say the mandates, as interpreted in rules issued by the Obama administration, add to the costs of health insurance and make it difficult for insurers to offer lower-cost options to meet consumers’ needs.

Democrats say that the purpose of insurance is to share risk, and that without federal requirements, insurers would once again offer bare-bones policies. Before the Affordable Care Act took effect, maternity coverage was frequently offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional premium.

Obama threatens to veto House Republican bill on Syrian refugees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Wednesday threatened a presidential veto of House Republican legislation aimed at increasing screenings for Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they enter the United States, calling new requirements in the bill “untenable.”

The legislation, which sets high hurdles for refugee admissions, including FBI background checks and individual sign-offs by top federal officials, “would provide no meaningful additional security for the American people, instead serving only to create significant delays and obstacles in the fulfillment of a vital program that satisfies both humanitarian and national security objectives,” the White House said.

President Barack Obama would veto the legislation if it reaches his desk, the statement concluded.

Republican leaders, eager to respond quickly to Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, had described the bill as a middle-ground approach. It institutes tough new screening requirements, but steers clear of demands from some Republicans, including presidential candidates, for religious questioning or a complete end to the US refugee program.

“This is common sense. And it’s our obligation,” Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said on the House floor ahead of the veto threat. “If the intelligence and law-enforcement community cannot certify that a person presents no threat, then they should not be allowed in.”

In the Senate, lawmakers emerging from a closed-door briefing with administration officials Wednesday night said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake planned to introduce a bill that would restrict visas for any individual who had been in Iraq or Syria in the past five years.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Republicans are focused on a refugee program that is “serious and arduous,” but 20 million foreign visitors come to the US with visa waivers with no fingerprinting or background vetting.

“Now that has to be reformed,” he said.

From left, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Rep. Dan Newhouse R-Wash., Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., confer on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, following a meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee ahead of legislation aimed at increasing screenings for Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they enter the US, including a requirement for FBI background checks. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Only around 2,200 Syrian refugees have been allowed into the US in the last four years and they already go through a comprehensive vetting process that can take as much as three years, including biometric screening, fingerprinting and additional classified controls. The new bill would add a requirement for the Homeland Security secretary, along with the head of the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence, to certify that each refugee being admitted poses no security threat.

The FBI also would be tasked with coming up with a way to conduct a “thorough background investigation” of refugees fleeing chaos and horror. Although Syrians tend to be heavily documented, Democrats questioned how that could be accomplished. The current refugee program, along with Obama’s plan to add 10,000 more Syrian refugees this year, would likely come to a stop while the new protocol is established.

On Tuesday, 11 Jewish groups were among 81 that sent a letter to Congress members urging them not to roll back plans to accept Syrian refugees.

Republicans had hoped that Democrats, facing pressures from nervous constituents, would support the bill in large numbers. Yet even before Obama announced his position, Democratic leaders were turning against the legislation, complaining of changes to the bill they said would have the practical effect of keeping refugees out of the US entirely.

“Some in Congress intend to use this tragedy to shut down the US refugee program, turning our backs on victims,” Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren of California and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said in a joint statement.

Obama, traveling overseas, had earlier ridiculed Congress for jumping on the refugee issue after failing to come up with legislation authorizing the use of military force in Syria, which he has been seeking for months.

“And now, suddenly, they’re able to rush in, in a day or two, to solve the threat of widows and orphans and others who are fleeing a war-torn land, and that’s their most constructive contribution to the effort against (the Islamic State)?” Obama said in the Philippines. “That doesn’t sound right to me. And I suspect it won’t sound right to the American people.”

The conservative group Heritage Action for America also announced its opposition to the bill, saying it gives too much authority to appointees of Obama. Nonetheless, many of the House conservatives who’ve caused problems for GOP leadership on legislation of all kinds said they would support it.

Senate action, though, is not likely until after Congress’ Thanksgiving recess. And with little chance for the bill to become law, several conservatives said the real action could come on a pending must-pass year spending bill that has to clear by Dec. 11 in order to keep the government running. Some want to use that bill to cut off funding for the refugee program — foreshadowing another potential government shutdown fight.