Schumer vows votes on background checks, voting rights after break
This week: Democrats barrel toward Trump impeachment after Capitol attack
House Democrats are driving toward impeaching President Trump for a second time after supporters of the president sacked the Capitol.
Tensions are running high as lawmakers prepare to return to a tumultuous, frayed Washington just days after a violent mob breached the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to go into lockdown and resulting in the deaths of five people.
The House and Senate had been expected to leave town until Jan. 19, a day before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. But the House is poised to return this week as lawmakers itch to respond to Trump, who encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol as Vice President Pence and lawmakers were formally tallying Biden's Electoral College win.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) laid out the path forward for Democrats in a "Dear Colleague" letter on Sunday night.
"In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both," Pelosi wrote. "As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action."
Pelosi, who was personally targeted by some members of the pro-Trump mob in Wednesday's insurrection, said Democrats will try to adopt Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin's 25th Amendment resolution on Monday by unanimous consent - a gambit sure to be blocked by Trump's conservative allies.
If that fails, Democrats will bring it to the floor on Tuesday as they try to push for Pence, who was also a target for the rioters, to respond within 24 hours. Democrats, and some Republicans, are supportive of Pence invoking the 25th Amendment, which would allow the VP and a majority of the Cabinet to sideline Trump.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Pence to discuss the issue late last week, where Schumer said they were put on hold for more than 20 minutes. They ultimately didn't connect with Pence.
Pelosi didn't say in her letter when the House would vote on impeaching Trump, but aides are expecting a vote as soon as Wednesday, likely on a single article. Language drafted by Reps. Raskin, David Cicilline (R.I.) and Ted Lieu (Calif.) charges Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors for "willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States."
Trump would be the first president to be impeached more than once.
As of late Sunday afternoon Cicilline said he had 210 co-sponsors.
If the House votes to impeach Trump - which would mark the second time of his presidency - when Democrats would send the articles to the Senate is unclear, and could have implications for how quickly Congress can act on Biden's agenda.
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned in a memo to lawmakers over the weekend that an impeachment trial is unlikely to start before Biden is sworn in, meaning a trial could bog down the ability to confirm Biden's Cabinet and take up other early legislation.
Biden hasn't weighed in on the impeachment talk publicly, saying that it was a decision for Congress.
"What the Congress decides to do is for them to decide, but I'm going to have to - and they're going to have to be ready to hit the ground running," Biden said. "Because when [Vice President-elect Kamala Harris] and I are sworn in we're going to be introducing immediately significant pieces of legislation to deal with the virus, to deal with the economy and deal with economic growth."
He added that the quickest way to get Trump out of office was for him to be sworn in on Jan. 20.
Democrats will control the Senate after the 20th but they would still need significant support from Republicans to vote to convict Trump. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has said he is open to articles of impeachment from the House.
"I want him to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage," Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News.
But if Democrats would be able to pick up the other GOP votes is unclear, even if Trump is out of office. McConnell, like many GOP senators, has been mum on the president since Wednesday's attacks, neither publicly throwing their support behind the options being pushed by Democrats nor rushing to defend Trump, whom they've stuck by closely since 2017.
But Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership who is close to McConnell, has dismissed both calls for the 25th Amendment to be invoked and talk of impeaching Trump as a power move by Democrats.
"No, I think it's a ridiculous discussion to have. I've got enough decisions to make about things that can happen rather than to spend time on things that can't happen," Blunt told a Missouri TV station when asked if he supported removing Trump and if McConnell would bring the Senate back before Jan. 19.
To try to avoid bogging down the Senate agenda just as Biden is taking office, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) floated that they could delay sending the articles to the Senate.
"We will take the vote that we should take in the House. And [Pelosi] will make the determination as to when is the best time to get that vote and get the managers appointed and move that legislation over to the Senate," Clyburn told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who is a nonvoting member, said separately that she was going to introduce a resolution to censure Trump, arguing that was a better path than impeachment because of the legal questions raised about the ability to hold an impeachment trial after a president has left office.
"A censure resolution is the only way to send a bipartisan, bicameral message without delay to the country and the world that the United States is a nation of laws," Norton said in a statement.
Fallout for GOP objectors
Lawmakers are also expected to discuss this week what, if any, fallout lawmakers who supported objections to the Electoral College vote, even after the Capitol attack, will face.
Much of the political fallout has been directed at Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who led the objections in the Senate against the results in Pennsylvania and Arizona, respectively.
The Senate was debating the Arizona objection when lawmakers were forced to go into lockdown, while Hawley moved forward with his objection to Pennsylvania's results hours later after rioters had stormed the building.
But dozens of Republicans supported the challenges, with six GOP senators and 121 House Republicans voting unsuccessfully to throw out Arizona's Electoral College results. Seven GOP senators and 138 House Republicans voted late Wednesday night to support a challenge to Pennsylvania's results.
Trump and some of his closest allies have falsely claimed for weeks that the election was "rigged," even as he lost court challenges and election experts dismissed talk of widespread voter fraud. Though many congressional Republicans didn't echo the president's language they largely refused to denounce it.
Several Senate Democrats have called on Hawley and Cruz to resign, meanwhile Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has called for an Ethics Committee investigation. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), the incoming committee chairman, was the first Senate Democrat to call for their resignation but hasn't discussed potential committee action.
"The Senate will need to conduct security review of what happened and what went wrong, likely through Rules, Homeland and Judiciary. The Senate Ethics Committee also must consider the expulsion, or censure and punishment, of Sens. Cruz, Hawley, and perhaps others," Whitehouse said in a string of tweets.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) is also set to introduce a resolution to expel members who supported overturning the election results.
"Tomorrow, I'm introducing my resolution to expel the members of Congress who tried to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist coup attempt that has left people dead. They have violated the 14th Amendment," she tweeted.