If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
And that’s exactly what freshman Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., intends to do in the coming days. Luna is intent on compelling the House of Representatives to censure Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Most Republicans have nothing but enmity for Schiff following his role leading up to and through the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
“You had Adam Schiff, who was chairman of the Intel Committee, lying day after day to the American public that he had proof (of collusion) by former President Trump with Russia,” said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Fox last month. “Now it’s time that people have consequences for their actions.”
Censure is one of the three formal modes of discipline in the House – right between reprimand and expulsion. A reprimand is exactly what it sounds like. If the House votes to reprimand a Member, they stand in the well of the House chamber before the entire body and the Speaker admonishes the offender for their conduct. Censure looks exactly the same – only the Speaker castigates you with a little more soul.
Consider the dynamic: McCarthy and his personal level of antipathy toward Schiff, standing atop the dais, glaring down at Schiff in the well, awaiting a scolding from the Speaker.
Most of the Republicans who voted to table the original plan didn’t like the $16 million fine. Granted, there aren’t many House GOPers who get along with Adam Schiff. But they worried that approval of such a fine could open Pandora’s Box.
“You wait until Democrats are back in the majority,” said one of the 20 GOPers who voted present. “If we pass that, they will stick it to us.”
There is also the concern that levying such a stiff fine on a lawmaker could force them to leave Congress to find other work. One lawmaker worried that a fine of that magnitude – imposed by a simple majority – didn’t match the spirit of the Constitutional bar, requiring a two-thirds vote for expulsion. Therefore, this resolution effectively lowered the bar for expulsion.
The source also indicated the ethics panel also has the ability to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department. But the chances of that are slim. That’s because the Ethics Committee is split five to five between Democrats and Republicans. Moreover, Republicans don’t like Schiff because of some of his activities related to Congress. The “Speech or Debate” clause of the Constitution in Article I, Section 6 mostly inoculates lawmakers from prosecution related to their official duties in Congress.
So, the new resolution to censure Schiff likely comes up by mid-week in the House. It’s doubtful the House would vote to table or set aside the new resolution if Luna worked things out with her GOP colleagues. This vote would likely mean an up or down vote on censure for Schiff.
But Luna accused Schiff of flaunting his reprieve.
“It brings me joy to see that he thinks that,” said Luna.
The Florida Republican said that Schiff “was singing a different tune” after she informed him of her mulligan.
“This is the new normal,” observed Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill. “Be careful how well you do your job or you might be on the outside looking in.”
There is concern about the weaponization of censure. A tit-for-tat. But Luna will try to sanction Schiff this week. No one wants the ignominy of becoming only the 26th member in House history to face censure. However, the political reality for Schiff is the house is penalizing him for going to the mat with former President Trump. That’s an achievement of which Schiff’s Senate opponents can only dream.