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Schiff censured as GOP could be lining up impeachment votes next

Democrats surround Schiff after vote, shout ‘shame’ at GOP

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., revised her resolution seeking to censure Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif.
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., revised her resolution seeking to censure Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Adam B. Schiff was censured by the House Wednesday, but as he stood in the well to hear Speaker Kevin McCarthy announce the finding, fellow Democrats jammed the aisles shouting “shame” and “disgrace” at the GOP majority while cheering Schiff and patting him on the back.

The resolution of censure also said the California Democrat, a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump and a prosecutor at Trump’s first impeachment trial, would be investigated by the Ethics Committee for “falsehoods, misrepresentations, and abuses of sensitive information.”

Schiff is the 25th House member ever censured, and the first since 2010.

The vote came as some House Republicans were preparing to force votes on the impeachment of President Joe Biden and potentially other members of his administration. After the censure vote, the Rules Committee met and approved a rule to refer a Biden impeachment resolution to the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees. The full House would have to vote on that rule for the referral to take place.

The censure vote was 213-209, with six members voting present. Florida Rep. Anna Paulina Luna offered the resolution to censure the former House Intelligence Committee chairman, who Republicans say unfairly targeted Trump. The resolution argues that Schiff abused his power as the ranking member and chair of the panel and falsely spread allegations about Trump’s 2016 campaign colluding with Russia.

Democrats said that Schiff, who was removed from the Intelligence Committee earlier this year, was being targeted as Trump faces legal troubles as he makes a third bid for the White House. 

The vote came a week after 20 Republicans voted with Democrats to table a similar measure that also would have fined Schiff $16 million. The updated resolution would not impose a fine on Schiff, which several Republicans raised concerns about.

Instead, it would censure him and refer him to the House Ethics Committee for an investigation. Democratic members of the House Ethics Committee, who last week voted present, voted with their party to table the resolution on Wednesday. 

All 20 Republicans who last week voted with Democrats to table the measure voted against doing so on Wednesday. 

On the floor before the vote, Luna said that the measure was meant to help restore the public’s trust in Congress.

“As Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff launched an all-out political campaign built on baseless distortions against a sitting U.S. president at the expense of every single citizen in this country and the honor of the House of Representatives,” she said. “With access to sensitive information unavailable to most members of Congress and certainly not accessible to the American people, Schiff abused his privileges, claiming to know the truth while leaving Americans in the dark about this web of lies.”

Before the vote, Luna told reporters she expected Republicans to reject the motion to table and said she was “fairly confident” the measure would be adopted.

“I’m not on Ethics but I think that they have a good start,” she said, citing the work of special counsel John Durham, who investigated the FBI’s handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election to help Trump.

Rep. Tom McClintock, who opposed the version of the resolution that was considered last week, said he did so “not to defend Mr. Schiff’s lies, but to defend the process that exposed those lies.”

“We must never punish speech in this House, only acts,” he said. “This new version removes the fine and it focuses instead on specific acts, most particularly the abuse of his position as Intelligence chairman by implying he had access to classified information that did not exist and his placement into the Congressional Record of the Steele Dossier, that he knew or should have known was false.”

McClintock added that he hoped the House would “return to the principles of due process that the Democrats stripped from our precedents in the last session.”

Schiff is running for California’s open Senate seat and has been fundraising off his potential censure for the last week.

“These political smear tactics divert the resources of the House away from the pressing priorities that Congress should be addressing, and that I want to tackle as your Senator — homelessness, the high cost of housing and health care, gun violence, the restoration of reproductive rights and more,” he wrote in a fundraising email on Tuesday night.

Speaking on the House floor prior to the vote, Schiff said that Republicans are focused on “petty political payback.” He and other Democrats lamented the House was focused on the censure, rather than other issues.

“Your words tell me that I have been effective in defense of our democracy, and I am grateful,” Schiff said. “And yet this false and defamatory resolution comes at a considerable cost to the country and to the Congress.”

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has endorsed Schiff for Senate, said in a floor speech during debate that Republicans “look miserable” and that they’ve turned the House into a puppet show.

The censure effort comes as other House conservatives are setting their sights on the administration. Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert offered a privileged resolution on Tuesday to impeach Biden, a measure that could allow her to go around House GOP leaders to bring it to the floor. Adoption of the rule proposed Wednesday evening by the full House, however would send the measure to two committees.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has also introduced impeachment resolutions that would target other members of the administration, and reportedly could soon move ahead with a privileged resolution to impeach FBI Director Christopher Wray. She has also introduced resolutions to impeach Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, and Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

An ally of McCarthy, Greene was quoted after supporting the package to raise the debt limit he negotiated with Biden last month that she expected House impeachment actions as “dessert.” 

K. Sophie Will contributed to this report.

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