Merriam-Webster defines the word “treason” as “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance.” There are 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives who did just that in broad daylight last week.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s absurd attempt to overthrow the 2020 elections was flatly rejected on Friday night by the Supreme Court. Coming hard after that court’s equally unequivocal dismissal of a Pennsylvania case seeking similar ends, you’d think this legal sideshow is over now, right? Nah.
In any event, Paxton’s doomed Supreme Court case seeking to undo the legally wrought will of the people was buttressed by Donald Trump himself, more than a dozen attorneys general, and those 126 Republican House members who offered amicus briefs to the case.
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Many of the names of these democracy-despising Republican representatives are unknown outside of their own districts — Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Rick Crawford of Arkansas, Fred Keller of Pennsylvania — but there are more than a few doozies on the list. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy jumped in late, joining Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan. They represent the rancid cream of the GOP crop in that chamber, and one of their Democratic colleagues is having none of it.
Long-serving Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey has requested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuse to seat the 126 Republican House members who jumped on the Paxton bandwagon and tried to overthrow a legal election.
“Stated simply, the men and women who would act to tear the United States Government apart cannot serve as Members of the Congress,” argued Pascrell in a statement addressed to the House majority leadership. “These lawsuits seeking to obliterate public confidence in our democratic system by invalidating the clear results of the 2020 presidential election undoubtedly attack the text and spirit of the Constitution, which each Member swears to support and defend.”
“Consequently,” Pascrell’s statement concluded, “I call on you to exercise the power of your offices to evaluate steps you can take to address these constitutional violations this Congress and, if possible, refuse to seat in the 117th Congress any Members-elect seeking to make Donald Trump an unelected dictator.”
Pascrell’s legal basis for this request is Section Three of the 14th Amendment, often referred to as “The Disqualification Clause”:
No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.
Seems fairly straightforward to me. Yet at a moment when the nation’s electors are working to close the deal on the 2020 election even as threats against them are shutting down government buildings, it seems far-fetched to believe Speaker Pelosi will run with this ball any time soon. Beyond distributing the newly available COVID-19 vaccine, the job of government in the immediate moment is to hold things together until we pass the January 6 Electoral College certification and drag this rusted heap across the Inauguration Day finish line.
After that, the dragon will be gone from under the mountain, and all those Republicans who hitched their wagons to Trump’s scaly tail will be forced to stand alone, even when together, and explain themselves to a damaged, furious nation… and I emphasize stand, because the House should not seat them absent an apology for their reckless anti-democratic behavior.
Will Speaker Pelosi heed this call? Her office put out a “Dear Colleague” letter on Friday, which read in part:
As the Pennsylvania Attorney General stated in a brief filed against this lawsuit, ‘The Court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated.’ As Members of Congress, we take a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution. Republicans are subverting the Constitution by their reckless and fruitless assault on our democracy which threatens to seriously erode public trust in our most sacred democratic institutions, and to set back our progress on the urgent challenges ahead. (Emphasis added)
Is the speaker telling Representative Pascrell something with this fiery rhetoric, or merely offering a sop? Draw your own conclusions. I find Pascrell’s complaint and argument entirely fitting and true, and I’m all but certain it will come to nothing. The 117th Congress is set to convene on January 3, three days before the final Electoral College accounting and 20 days from now. That is a narrow and damn busy window, and the speaker is notoriously averse to large, dramatic moves under any circumstances.
Yet I believe move, she must. A Rubicon has been crossed in the politics of this nation, and there must be a reckoning. This morning’s news is filled with images of boxed vaccines rolling out to a waiting world, with talking heads gushing about “getting back to normal.” All hail the vaccine, but there is no normal in those boxes. Not after this year, and not after the last election.
If something like “normal” is ever to rise again, it can only come after the country opens itself up to an unsparing self-appraisal, and then commits to steps to shore up the broken places left behind in Trump’s wake.
Oh, right, and refuse to seat the Traitorous 126, right down to the last Republican on the list. The GOP has become an authoritarian policy-free wrecking ball in a time when good government can make the difference between life and massive death. We have already had the latter; it is time for the former to have its day, and that day cannot come without consequences for those who would afflict this nation with ham-fisted tyranny.
“Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason?” asked English poet John Harington. “For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”
This treason must not be allowed to prosper, and those 126 servants to Trump’s authoritarian binge vocally and proudly committed treason to serve his various shabby ends. They have no business in the House of Representatives or in any office that serves the public they sold out on the cheap. There must be a reckoning, and this must be a small yet vital part of it.