House Dems plan to force Russia votes

House Dems plan to force Russia votes
© Greg Nash

House Democrats announced a new strategy on Friday to force votes in an effort to highlight President Trump’s possible ties to Russia.

Democrats plan to offer measures known as resolutions of inquiry that automatically trigger floor votes if they don’t get action in committee within 14 legislative days.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and several other Democratic lawmakers scheduled a press conference in the Capitol to announce the plans on Friday morning.

The announcement included members of the House Financial Services, Ways and Means, Transportation and Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Judiciary committees.

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Democrats are seizing on the few tools at their disposal given their limited ability to direct congressional oversight while in the minority.

Republicans are likely to consider the resolutions in committee to avoid forcing the entire House to vote on them.

Still, the votes are meant to put a spotlight on Trump as well as House Republicans, who Democrats say aren’t being aggressive enough with oversight of the administration.

For instance, one resolution unveiled as part of the strategy would request documents or records from Trump relating to his abrupt firing of James Comey as FBI director in May and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsRights groups commend Trump for trying terror suspect in federal court NYT reporter, Dem senator go back-and-forth on Scaramucci coverage Trump brings terrorism suspect to US for trial in break from rhetoric MORE’s involvement in the decision.

The resolution, offered by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), will go to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

Other resolutions unveiled on Friday would demand documents regarding: any Trump connections to Russian banks or evidence of money laundering, plans by Trump to lift sanctions on Russia, the Trump Organization's lease with the federal government for the Old Post Office Pavilion repurposed as a hotel, and Trump's tax returns.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, noted as Pelosi stood off to the side that she previously called for President Trump to be impeached.

Earlier this week, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) filed an article of impeachment alleging that Trump obstructed justice in firing James Comey as FBI director amid the agency’s investigation into the campaign’s ties to Russia. So far only one other Democrat, Rep. Al GreenAl GreenDem warns of additional articles of impeachment against Trump House Dems plan to force Russia votes House Democrat files article of impeachment against Trump MORE (D-Texas), has endorsed Sherman’s effort. 

Pelosi, for now, is steering clear of joining what are so far only a handful of liberal voices calling for impeachment proceedings. 

“I think the facts will be self-evident. Maybe they will be exculpatory of the president. Maybe they will not. But there is evidence, clear evidence, that we need to know more. And we should not close that path,” Pelosi said in response to a question about what it would take for her to call for Trump’s impeachment.

“We’ve gone into new territory this week with the [Donald] Trump Jr. statement,” she said. “We saw cold hard evidence that the Trump administration and the Trump family eagerly intended to collude with Russia.”

The House Judiciary panel already rejected multiple previous resolutions of inquiry earlier this year that demanded documents from the Justice Department connecting the Trump campaign with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) also offered a resolution of inquiry in the House Ways and Means Committee to request Trump’s tax returns from the last decade.

The party-line votes in committee to dismiss the resolutions prevented any House floor vote.

But Democrats are determined to force more votes — even if they don’t go anywhere — to pressure Republicans following revelations this week that President Trump’s eldest son accepted an offer of help as part of the Russian government’s election interference campaign.

Trump Jr. released emails Tuesday showing how he set up a meeting last year with a Russian lawyer claiming to have damaging information about Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonScaramucci deletes old tweets bashing Trump Trump hits reset button on messaging Trump Jr., Manafort still haven't agreed to testify before Senate panel MORE.

A publicist with ties to a Trump family business partner who served as an intermediary said that it was “obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

— This story was updated at 10:48 a.m.