The GOP-led House on Wednesday formally condemned California Democrat Representative Adam B. Schiff for his role in the investigation of former President Donald J. Trump, the first in what could be a series of votes to punish those which are considered the party by the Republicans. enemies.
The censure passed by a party line of 213 to 209, with six Republicans voting “present.” The measure received the backing of Chairman Kevin McCarthy after the lead sponsor, Florida Republican Representative Anna Paulina Luna, changed the language to remove a multimillion-dollar fine that some Republicans considered unconstitutional.
“Adam Schiff launched a large-scale political campaign, based on baseless misrepresentations, against a sitting US president,” Ms. Luna said. The censure accused him of engaging in “falsehoods, misrepresentations and misuse of sensitive information” as he sought to expose links between Mr Trump and Russia.
It is rare for a member of Congress to be reprimanded, a punishment amounting to a public rebuke. The House has censured members only 24 times in the chamber’s history, and usually only after a finding of wrongdoing. Before Mr. Schiff, only two members of the House had been censured in nearly four decades.
Democrats erupted in chants of “Shame!” with the Republicans after the vote, and surrounded Mr. Schiff in a protective circle as he walked to the House well to receive the censure. Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat of California, called the proceedings a “disgrace.”
Five of the six Republicans who voted “present” are members of the Ethics Committee. Such a vote is traditional in such cases to preserve the independence of the members of the Ethics Panel, who would be tasked with investigating Mr. Schiff.
Mr Schiff, who is seeking a Senate seat and has cited disapproval against him in fundraising, said he was targeted only because he had opposed Mr Trump.
Mr. Schiff led the first impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump and served on the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
“You honor me with your enmity,” Mr. Schiff told Republicans from the House, noting that Mr. Trump had been indicted on allegations that he mishandled classified documents.
“Donald Trump is being indicted for actions that endanger our national security and McCarthy would be spending the country’s time on petty political revenge, thinking he can censure or fine Tump’s opposition into submission,” said Mr. Schiff. “But I won’t give in. Not an inch.”
The vote came at a time of mounting Republican anger as hard-right members of Congress increasingly campaign for the impeachment of President Biden or members of his administration.
Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado and a leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, is seeking to force a vote on Biden’s impeachment this week. Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has pushed for the impeachment of FBI Director Christopher Wray, accused Ms. Boebert on Wednesday of copying her articles of impeachment against Mr. Biden.
But Mr. McCarthy tried to impose a sense of strategy on Wednesday at his troublesome conference. The speaker used a closed gathering of Republicans to argue against a speedy impeachment of Biden, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Mr. McCarthy argued that the Republicans would appear inconsistent if they pushed to rebuke Mr. Schiff for what Republicans said was a politicized impeachment process, then turned back and impeached Mr. Biden before House committees investigating the Biden administration and the business interests of the Biden family. members finished their work.
Mr McCarthy told members he was not opposed to eventually carrying out impeachment proceedings against Mr Biden or any of his cabinet officials, but that he believed that a proper investigation should be conducted first.
House speakers often struggle to control their more aggressive members. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who exercised renowned control over the House floor, was unable to prevent Texas Democrat Representative Al Green from forcing a vote to impeach Mr. Trump before she was ready to do so.
The House Republicans’ rush to punish Mr. Schiff and Mr. Biden comes a week after Mr. Trump was federally indicted on allegations that he mishandled classified documents, and a day after the Justice Department announced that prosecutors had found the president’s son, Hunter Biden, would sue for felony tax crimes. Republicans spent much of Tuesday’s day swearing at what they called a “dual justice system” in which the younger Biden faced punishments they said were too lenient.
Ms. Luna’s initial attempt to punish Mr. Schiff failed last week, when the House voted 225 to 196 to pass or kill her first resolution. Her original effort called for an ethics investigation into Mr. Schiff and a $16 million fine if he was found to have lied.
Libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican Representative Thomas Massie was among the Republicans who argued the fine was unconstitutional.
The last member to be censured was Rep. Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, in 2021, after he posted a manipulated video to his social media depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, and attacking Mr. Biden.