Some sources noted House Democratic leadership would have to make that call, since the strategy could seriously impair bipartisan work just as Biden takes office on a pledge to unify a nation that’s more divided than ever. And many Democrats privately noted that it could be a complicated, or even impossible, effort, since more than 130 House Republicans — a majority of the caucus — joined the objection efforts.
That kind of blanket boycott would be a huge and virtually unprecedented move, and has ignited tense discussions across the Democratic Caucus.
Still, the idea was floated on a Monday afternoon caucus call by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Some Democrats are already publicly berating that group of Republicans as the “Sedition Caucus.”
“I think we’re all struggling with the same thing — figuring out what the answer is,” a senior Democratic staffer said. “Where is the line in the sand?”
The GOP’s top House brass, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.), joined the vote to reject Biden’s vote count, as well as several committee leaders. The dissenters also included 10 members of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles a huge swath of legislation that moves through the chamber. The top Republican on the health subcommittee, Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, was among them.
Democratic committee aides were split on the issue on Monday, with some cautioning that their panel chairs were unlikely to go so far. But in the wake of last week’s electoral challenge and deadly riots, many lawmakers’ offices are already rethinking arrangements to co-sponsor certain pieces of legislation across the aisle, according to multiple Democratic sources. It’s also prompted questions about how to proceed, if at all, with future collaboration.
“Democrats who are deciding who to choose as their Republican lead on bills will be wise to choose members who voted for the election results,” another Democratic committee aide warned. “Committees will not be rewarding members who voted against the election results — clearly those members are not interested in governing.”
Republicans are aware of the deliberations, two House GOP sources told POLITICO.
The debate within the Democratic party captures the intensifying bitterness in Congress after Wednesday’s mob violence in the Capitol, which threatened the lives of lawmakers and staff on both sides and left five people dead.
Republicans have been quick to point out that more than 30 Democrats voted against certifying results in states Trump won in 2017. They also note that lawmakers have raised these procedural disputes of presidential elections since the Nixon era, without the majority party exacting punishment of the opposition lawmakers who participated.
But Democrats have countered that those objections did not ultimately lead to a violent assault on Congress.
Even a group of lawmakers that holds bipartisanship above almost all other values — the Problem Solvers Caucus — held a tense call in the days following the attack, where Republicans largely resisted Democratic entreaties to support punishments for Trump, including impeachment.
The potential legislative boycott is just the starting point for Democrats looking to punish the “Stop the Steal” Republicans, as rage continues to build over Trump’s role inciting a mob that attacked the Capitol on Wednesday.
Ocasio-Cortez had advocated several ideas, even signaling support for evoking the 14th Amendment to expel her GOP colleagues in a Sunday interview with ABC News. She argued this Constitutional process is not mutually exclusive to the 25th Amendment, which provides a process for removing a sitting president from office.
“Expulsion should be on the table,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Monday’s caucus call, sources recounted — a sentiment that was echoed by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
Moderate Democrats, however, have fiercely fought back against against any efforts to expel Republicans from the House, arguing that it would only shatter attempts at unity in start of the 117th Congress.
Democrats are also discussing several other ways to reprimand the Republicans who backed Trump’s failed bid to overturn the election results, though it remains unclear if any will gain traction in the beginning days of Biden’s presidency.
Perhaps the most direct effort to go after House Republicans is the push by House Democrats to censure Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), the first Republican in both chambers to announce his plans to object to the certification of the election who also helped incite the mob last week.
Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) unveiled a resolution Monday that said Brooks “encouraged and incited violence against his fellow Members of Congress,” citing a speech beside Trump last Wednesday, hours before rioters began storming the Capitol.
Brooks said in his address: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” Brooks’ office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the censure resolution.
For now, though, their focus is on Trump himself as the House moves to impeach the president for a second time on Wednesday.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Rules Committee, told reporters Monday that the caucus would need to discuss any potential next steps for Republican members who objected to the results, or for those who also helped incite the violence.
“Some of these people should have the good sense to resign, and they should take it upon themselves to do the right thing,” McGovern said, specifically mentioning Brooks. He did not rule out the possibility of censuring some of the GOP members: “That’s something we ought to discuss and be thoughtful about. … Obviously, we need to have those discussions.”
Heather Caygle and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.