The U.S. House voted on July 17 to kill a new resolution seeking to impeach President Donald Trump for “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color […].”
Iowa’s Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) were among 137 Democrats who voted to table the resolution (roll call). So did all 194 Republicans present, including Steve King (IA-04), and independent Justin Amash, even though Amash has previously said Trump engaged in impeachable “conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice.”
Representative Al Green of Texas forced the vote by using “a procedural tactic known as a privileged resolution,” Andrew Prokop explained at Vox. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has opposed taking concrete steps toward impeachment, told reporters before the vote,
“We have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of power and the rest that the president may have engaged in. That is the serious path that we are on.”
Although today’s vote was lopsided (332 to 95), it revealed growing support for impeachment compared to House votes on similar resolutions Green introduced in December 2017 and January 2018. Only 58 and 66 Democrats opposed killing those resolutions, respectively. Loebsack voted to table them both; he was the only Democrat from Iowa serving in Congress at that time.
The 95 Democrats who opposed tabling Green’s latest resolution included four with seniority: House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, the second-ranking Democrat on that committee Zoe Lofgren, Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel, and Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone. None of those four are among the 84 (or by some counts 89) House Democrats who have advocated for initiating impeachment hearings.
Iowa’s representatives currently do not support formal steps toward impeachment. I haven’t been able to get specific comments from Finkenauer or Loebsack, but Axne discussed her thought process with Bleeding Heartland earlier this month.
I support launching impeachment hearings to strengthen the House’s hand in seeking access to important documents and testimony, and to focus more public attention on actions by the president that could constitute high crimes (not only possible obstruction of justice but also violations of the emoluments clause, for instance). However, rushing to vote out articles of impeachment without any investigation strikes me as wrongheaded.
Trump’s racist comments regarding four House Democrats commonly known as “the Squad” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib) inspired Green’s latest impeachment effort. On July 16, Pelosi condemned the remarks as racist, sparking a complicated dispute over chamber rules regarding accusations of racism. Following a few hours of disruption of House business, the Democratic majority (including all three Iowans) voted against striking Pelosi’s comments from the record. A short while later, Democrats voted for a resolution “Condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress.”
Asked whether Trump’s tweets about the four women were racist, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst told Politico’s Burgess Everett on July 15, “yes I do. They are American citizens.” She didn’t post any such sentiments on her own social media feeds or release a written statement about the controversy. Nevertheless, Ernst appeared concerned about giving the wrong impression. On July 16, King admonished the senator with this reaction to her comments:
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) July 16, 2019
Later the same day, Ernst asked Everett to clarify that she stands with Trump: “I’d love for you to make that clear. While I don’t appreciate the tweets, but I still support the president.”
Simpson College Professor Kedron Bardwell quipped on Twitter, “Signaling to your base that you fully support the president who unapologetically sends racist tweets that are deeply troubling to you personally, all while doing nothing to hold him accountable, is about as 2019 GOP as it gets.”
To my knowledge, Senator Chuck Grassley has not expressed any opinion about the president amplifying racist tropes and suggesting critics who are people of color don’t belong in the United States and should “go back” to other countries.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Grassley’s staff do not allow me to participate in the senator’s conference calls with Iowa reporters, so I didn’t realize that Grassley was asked about Trump’s comments earlier on July 17. Barbara Rodriguez of the Des Moines Register shared the relevant part of the transcript on Twitter:
QUESTION FROM REPORTER: Why is it so difficult to say what the president remarked is racism? Why is that so hard for you and other people in your party?
GRASSLEY: I just simply think that, that, I control what I control. And I hope I have a reputation of bringing civility to our politics. I hope that, that, all of my colleagues, regardless what branch of government you’re in, can avoid name calling and be treated respectfully. And, and I don’t think anybody’s patriotism ought to be questioned.