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McGovern warns against House Democrats focusing on impeachment

Representative Jim McGovern said, “I’m not spending all my time focused on impeachment.”
Representative Jim McGovern said, “I’m not spending all my time focused on impeachment.”Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Representative Jim McGovern, who is set to ascend to a powerful committee chair when Democrats take control of the House next year, warned against his party focusing on what he characterized as futile efforts — at least for the moment — to impeach President Trump.

“The votes aren’t there,” McGovern said in an interview with the Globe’s editorial board Tuesday, referring to the fact that Republicans hold a majority in the Senate and so far don’t appear inclined to support convicting Trump should the House bring impeachment articles against him.

“I think this president is a disgrace,” the Worcester Democrat stressed, noting that he has twice voted to move an impeachment resolution to the House Judiciary Committee when the Democrats were in the minority. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I don’t think he belongs in office.”

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But, he said, holding up his hands: “I’m not spending all my time focused on impeachment.”

Democrats need to show voters that they can get things done, said McGovern, who was elected to a 12th term last month. That includes possibly trying to find common ground with Republicans — on an infrastructure bill, for instance, which Massachusetts sorely needs, he said. “I have bridges in my district that are older than most of the states in the country,” he quipped.

Democrats also should be circumspect about how they exercise oversight over the Trump administration, he said, “so we’re not flailing out there at anything.”

In January, McGovern will pick up the gavel of the arcane but powerful Rules Committee, which determines the rules under which bills are considered on the House floor — including what, if any, amendments can come up for a vote. For him, getting “stuff done” in part will center on running that panel in a less autocratic fashion than his GOP predecessors, who rarely allowed open debate or votes on amendments that Republican leaders did not support.

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“The Rules Committee right now is where democracy goes to die,” he said. He pointed to the committee’s role in squashing attempts in the House at getting a vote on a resolution ending US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. The Senate passed a similar resolution last week.

McGovern used the word “accommodating” to describe the style he would like to employ in running the committee.

He said he wants to be more accommodating to colleagues, and not just fellow Democrats or lawmakers who think like he does.

Having more debate on the floor over proposed amendments would be good for the institution, he said.

“I think that can help change the tone of the House,” McGovern said.


Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.