Republicans eye push to condemn Pelosi for delaying impeachment trial

By Melanie Zanona

House Republicans are exploring efforts to formally condemn Speaker Nancy Pelosi for withholding impeachment articles from the Senate, eager to whack Democrats who are increasingly divided on the issue.

GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne, who is running for an Alabama Senate seat, introduced a censure resolution on Thursday morning to rebuke Pelosi for hanging on to the articles of impeachment since December. Republicans have the option to force a floor vote on the measure though Democrats would surely move to table it, just as they did with a censure resolution against House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

“Speaker Pelosi’s decision to hold the articles of impeachment against President Trump in a pathetic and unconstitutional attempt to extract concessions from the Senate is an unprecedented abuse of power,” Byrne said in a statement.

And Rep. Morgan Griffith, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, raised a series of parliamentary inquiries on the House floor to increase scrutiny on Pelosi. The Virginia Republican asked whether there is any precedent for Pelosi sitting on the impeachment articles and if there is any action the House can take “since the speaker has not been able to physically do an essential part of her administrative duties.”

The lawmaker presiding over the House floor rebuffed his questions, saying they were improper inquiries.

Pelosi, meanwhile, is unmoved by the criticism from the GOP or the complaints coming from those in her own party. While some Senate Democrats are starting to get antsy over the delay in an impeachment trial, the speaker has remained steadfast that she won’t transmit the articles until she sees the Senate GOP’s impeachment trial rules. Most House Democrats have applauded her push to keep the narrative focused on a fair and comprehensive trial.

“I’ll send them over when I’m ready,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “And that’ll probably be soon.”

The rising focus on Pelosi in recent days has pushed Republicans to quietly weigh potential legislative maneuvers — such as crafting a previous question motion — to force Pelosi’s hand. The GOP’s desire to turn up the heat on the speaker reflects a broad feeling in the Republican Conference that they are on the winning side of this messaging battle.

And while no House Republicans support impeachment, they know Trump has been anxious to be vindicated in a Senate trial and are eager to give him what he wants.

Ultimately, there is little Republicans can do from a procedural standpoint, other than try to force a vote on the censure resolution. And the House’s impeachment rules indeed grant Pelosi the power to submit the articles and name impeachment managers at a time of her choosing.

Still, Republicans are eager to frame the debate as Democrats just being too afraid to make their argument to the GOP-controlled Senate, where Trump is expected to be acquitted of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in the Ukraine inquiry.

“She has the gall to say she wants to determine what happens in the Senate? Maybe she is more concerned that her case is so weak,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters. “The speaker does not have the power to continue to hold.”

Across the Capitol, Senate Republicans are also eyeing their legislative options. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump's top allies, introduced a resolution criticizing House Democrats for the weeks-long delay and calling on them to act immediately. And Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a resolution to change the Senate rules and dismiss Trump’s impeachment if the articles aren’t transmitted.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signing onto Hawley's resolution. Though McConnell won't move to change Senate rules in the coming days, it's a response intended to speed up future potential impeachments in case a similar rift occurs between a speaker and Senate majority leader, a source familiar with his plans said.

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.