In the face of growing pressure to hold President Donald Trump accountable for inciting the violent far-right mob that invaded the nation's Capitol Building, House Democratic leaders signaled that they don't intend to do anything of the kind by adjourning their chamber Thursday morning until after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.
The move prompted immediate and furious backlash from progressives, who denounced the decision as a spineless refusal to respond to a violent coup attempt led by the sitting president and abetted by many Republican lawmakers.
"If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up. Congress should reconvene to impeach the president."
—Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
"Disgraceful, cowardly move from House Democratic leadership," declared Murshed Zaheed, managing principal at progressive media relations firm Megaphone Strategies, after House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the chamber won't hold any more sessions until after Inauguration Day.
"Shame on all of them," said Zaheed.
Condemning the House's adjournment as "utterly pathetic," The Week's Ryan Cooper tweeted that Hoyer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) "might as well hang 'kick me' signs around their necks."
utterly pathetic. Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn might as well hang "kick me" signs around their necks https://t.co/LibVhIpupU
— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) January 7, 2021
Shortly after the House Democratic leadership adjourned the chamber, incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined the chorus of lawmakers and advocacy groups calling for Trump's immediate removal, either by invocation of the 25th Amendment or through the impeachment process. The Senate is not expected to return until January 19.
"What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president," Schumer said in a statement Thursday. "This president should not hold office one day longer. The quickest and most effective way—it can be done today—to remove this president from office would be for the vice president to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment."
"If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up," Schumer added, "Congress should reconvene to impeach the president."
During a press conference early Thursday afternoon, Pelosi echoed Schumer's demand that Pence invoke the 25th Amendment and said she "may" be prepared to move forward with impeachment if the vice president refuses to act. After noting that her phone has been "exploding" with calls to impeach the president, the speaker said she doesn't have "immediate plans" to do so as she awaits a response from Pence.
Just ahead of Pelosi's briefing, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) unveiled articles of impeachment against the president accompanied by a "Dear Colleague" letter imploring House members to join her and the dozen co-sponsors of the resolution, including Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Articles of Impeachment for introduction, so proud of everyone co-leading this effort with us.
We need to move quickly to remove this President from office. pic.twitter.com/vbZtA7g6fc
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 7, 2021
"I invite you to join me in introducing a resolution to impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors," reads Omar's letter. "Once again, Trump has violated his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution."
"Every single hour that Donald Trump remains in office, our country, our democracy, and our national security remain in danger," the letter continues. "Congress must take immediate action to keep the people of this country safe and set a precedent that such behavior cannot be tolerated."
Alexandra Rojas, executive director of advocacy group Justice Democrats, warned that failure to respond forcefully to Wednesday's coup attempt would make Democratic leaders "complicit in the normalization and shielding of consequences for Nazis and fascists in the United States of America when they attack our nation's Capitol."
"This shouldn't have to even be laid out. We are in an emergency situation and need people in positions of power to act. Going home sends a signal to these Nazis and fascists. Going home sends a signal to millions of Americans terrified at home," said Rojas. "You have a responsibility to the American people to stand brave in the face of fascism and hold the fucking line even when it's hard. I expect to hear from Dem lawmakers soon about their strategy."
This story has been updated with new comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.