Republicans see the 2020 elections as the next opportunity to impeach Nancy Pelosi

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to impeach former Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas, but the tactic wasn’t enough to save Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, one of the seven Republicans who were accused of inappropriate sexual behavior in the GOP’s anti-Washington, anti-sexual-harassment drive.

It’s been six weeks since one of the party’s own, California Rep. Blake Farenthold, resigned after reports that he had settled a sexual harassment complaint with $84,000 from his office after suggesting that a congressional aide come into his office and give him oral sex. Farenthold agreed to pay the amount to avoid a public trial, though he later filed for bankruptcy, and he apologized to his staff.

And yet the election of three more Republicans since Farenthold’s announcement, in two states that Trump won with 70 percent or more, could signal a growing consensus that a nonpartisan House panel needs to investigate the various allegations made against a handful of members. It also may indicate that criticism of the GOP’s handling of the matter has crossed party lines.

“Why don’t we impeach (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi if she’s for ‘unity and a fair system’ and she keeps firing people,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., referring to the former speaker.

“If I were in Nancy Pelosi’s shoes and this came up, I’d probably expect somebody to send an ‘I am guilty’ letter to the leader’s office and hopefully we can just start getting our house in order,” Walker added.

It’s one thing for the GOP to send forth a censure resolution, which amounts to a reprimand and is a largely symbolic gesture, suggesting the leader’s office could discipline a member more harshly.

“It’s all silly. I don’t think there’s anybody in the country that has any idea what we’re talking about in terms of seriousness,” said former Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., a co-chairman of the bipartisan House Sexual Harassment Task Force. He noted that former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., faced censure before joining the Senate; Livingston stepped down after details of his past sexual dalliances were reported.

Shays said a subcommittee could investigate multiple allegations in several different cases.

For Republicans, “doing absolutely nothing is the last way this should go,” Shays said.

The process hasn’t happened, however, and Reps. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina have yet to face censure after former female staffers accused them of sexual harassment. Conyers and Foxx have said they’ll step down, though Conyers was found not guilty of sexual harassment by a House subcommittee.

Foxx has said she hopes the matter is resolved administratively, but she’s in no rush.

“Those are matters that will be resolved, I hope, in a way that allows people to work without fear and without uncertainty,” Foxx said Wednesday during a phone interview. “I’m really not troubled by it; I see it as an administrative matter. There are just so many items on the agenda right now.”

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., said that another reason the matter hasn’t been addressed is because of the number of people involved.

She said the vast majority of members think the only way a congressional aide would be forced to undergo an investigation would be “in a really inappropriate and threatening way.” In the example of the two Georgia lawmakers, she said, the aide might be forced to submit to a polygraph test.

“And then, on top of that, just the dynamic of personnel issues and there’s so many dynamics in Congress,” Ellmers said. “There’s an expectation that this should be not just handled administratively … but it’s a question of how are we all dealing with each other.”

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., a vocal opponent of the House sexual harassment policy, said there needs to be a broader look at the ethics rules governing Congress.

If there is a vote “on that type of matter,” Brooks said, “we need to make sure that there is an arm’s length process so that we can pick the most appropriate person for that punishment.”

Meanwhile, the investigation of Franks continues. Franks, R-Ariz., has said he won’t resign.


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