Washington — The House voted on Wednesday to reject a GOP-backed resolution to censure Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff for his role in congressional investigations of former President Donald Trump, effectively killing the effort to publicly reprimand him.
House Democrats moved to table a resolution introduced by Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida, an ardent Trump supporter. The motion succeeded by a vote of 225 to 196, with 20 Republicans voting with Democrats. It needed a simple majority to pass.
The resolution called for the House Ethics Committee to investigate Schiff, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee and current candidate for Senate in California, and said he should be fined $16 million if the committee determines he “lied, made misrepresentations, and abused sensitive information.” Luna said the fine represents half the cost of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
Schiff has been one of Trump’s most ardent and high-profile critics for years, having served as the House’s lead prosecutor in Trump’s first impeachment trial. In a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, Schiff wrote that the effort to censure him was “not only a terrible misuse of House precedent and resources, but a clear attack on our constitutional system of checks and balances.”
Censure is essentially a public reprimand by the House to punish misconduct that falls short of warranting expulsion. Twenty-four House lawmakers have been censured in U.S. history, most recently in 2021, when GOP Rep. Paul Gosar was censured for tweeting a video depicting violence against President Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The censure resolution alleged Schiff “purposely deceived his Committee, Congress, and the American people” and “used his position and access to sensitive information to instigate a fraudulently based investigation, which he then used to amass political gain and fundraising dollars.” It also accused him of acting “dishonestly and dishonorably.”
Schiff said Tuesday the resolution was an effort to distract from Trump being indicted on federal charges for his alleged mishandling of classified information after he left the White House, as well as retaliation for Schiff voting to impeach Trump.
“This is political payback. But it’s also, frankly, quite flattering. They must view me as very effective. They want to go after me to gratify the former president,” Schiff told CNN on Tuesday. “But it will do harm to the House to bring this kind of frivolous censure resolution.”
Schiff said the effort to censure him would not silence or intimidate him.
Luna introduced the resolution to censure Schiff on the same day that Trump pleaded not guilty to charges that he kept and hid classified documents, and then obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve them.
Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said earlier Wednesday that he would vote to table the resolution because he considered the proposed fine against Schiff to be unconstitutional. Though he added that he thought Schiff “acted unethically.”
“The Constitution says the House may make its own rules but we can’t violate other (later) provisions of the Constitution,” Massie tweeted. “A $16 million fine is a violation of the 27th and 8th amendments.”
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