For House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), it’s time to fish or cut bait.
Most Missouri voters are familiar with this colloquial expression; it means either take action or step back —and do something useful instead. That’s the position Pelosi finds herself in, now that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced a resolution that would allow the Senate to dismiss the articles of impeachment if the House continues to refuse to formally transmit them to the Senate.
The Republican senator’s message is as sensible as it is salient — the Constitution does not abide your half measures, and neither will we.
Sen. Hawley’s proposal is by no means revolutionary. According to his resolution, if the House has failed to send the articles to the Senate after 25 days, a senator could offer a motion to dismiss “with prejudice for failure by the House of Representatives to prosecute such articles” with a simple majority vote. This idea of dismissal for want of prosecution, or “DWOP,” is commonplace in both civil and criminal litigation.
To date, House Democrats’ rationalizations for holding impeachment in a perpetual state of suspension are marked by rampant hypocrisy and duplicity. A month ago, when the House announced that it would move forward with an impeachment vote, Pelosi claimed there was urgency to do so because “civilization as we know it … is at stake in the next election.” But once the House, with bipartisan opposition, did vote to impeach, House Democrats acted immediately and urgently — to go home for the holidays.
The Constitution clearly establishes each chamber’s role in the impeachment process. While Article I, Section 2 gives the House the power to impeach, Section 3 unequivocally provides the Senate with “the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” This was, by no means, an inconsequential part of the Framers’ constitutional design.
As Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist No. 66, dividing impeachment “between the two branches of the legislature, assigning to one the right of accusing, to the other the right of judging, avoids the inconvenience of making the same persons both accusers and judges.” It is the Senate’s sole prerogative to resolve the impeachment process.
As Hawley himself has pointed out, perpetual stalemate in the impeachment process could easily result in some sort of October surprise (a last-ditch attempt to sway the November election) or, worse still, an attack on the president’s second term following re-election. If House Democrats truly respected the will of the people, they would act now on impeachment rather than using it to influence or undermine this year’s election. If the House won’t decide whether to cast or cut the line, then Hawley, joined by 10 original co-sponsors, signaled that the Senate will.
Congress already has a long list of unfinished business from 2019 and other urgent matters at hand in 2020 that are vital to the continued safety and prosperity of our country. Iran continues to make threats and escalate tensions. The border remains unsecured. Obamacare is failing, with no legislative fix in sight. And our government’s reckless spending continues to pilfer from future generations.
If House Democrats still think that all these things should be placed on the back burner in order to impeach this president, they should get on with it. And if not, they should move on. But either way, Hawley is right — delaying the process while distracting from the important work that needs to be done on behalf of the American people should no longer be an option.