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What the impeachment vote in the House means (and what it doesn't)

Despite what Donald Trump suggested, this was an impeachment vote in the House, but it wasn't the impeachment vote.
The Capitol building at dusk.
The Capitol building at dusk.

A couple of hours before Donald Trump's rally in North Carolina, the House held a procedural vote on presidential impeachment. Not surprisingly, it didn't go proponents' way.

The House voted on Wednesday to table a resolution from Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, to impeach President Donald Trump over racist comments he made about four Democratic congresswomen of color, effectively killing the measure.The vote -- 332 to 95, with one lawmaker voting "present" -- marked the first time the Democratic-controlled chamber had weighed in on impeachment, an issue that has created a widening schism within the party. Progressive newcomers and several 2020 candidates have pushed for impeachment proceedings, but the House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has been resistant.

If you look at the roll call, you'll see 332 "yes" votes, but those were votes to table the measure, not the number of members who supported impeachment.

The president seemed eager to gloat about the results last night, pointing to the House vote as evidence of the impeachment effort's failure. Trump added on Twitter that the impeachment measure "is perhaps the most ridiculous and time consuming project I have ever had to work on." I have no idea what he's referring to -- and there's nothing to suggest he did any work on this at all.

Upon arriving in Greenville, he went on to say, in reference to the impeachment threat, "That's the end of it."

But it's really not, and the president shouldn't be too pleased about yesterday's developments, which were far less significant than he let on. Yes, this was an impeachment vote, but it wasn't the impeachment vote.

Following the release of Robert Mueller's report on the Russia scandal, dozens of lawmakers have announced their support for, at a minimum, initiating impeachment proceedings against Trump, pointing to allegations of obstruction of justice -- among other things. The number of members supporting such a move inches higher every week.

That's not what yesterday was all about. Rather, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) introduced a measure to impeach Trump over matters entirely unrelated to the special counsel's investigation. Indeed, his resolution (H. RES. 498) endorsed impeaching the president over his personal offenses, including his recent insistence that four congresswomen of color "go back" to some other country.

There are some House members who support impeaching Trump over his alleged crimes who voted against yesterday's impeachment resolution.

In other words, when gauging congressional support for impeaching this president, the vote on Green's resolution doesn't necessarily offer the most reliable guide.

Postscript: If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, yesterday wasn't the first time the Texas Democrat used a privileged resolution to force a vote on impeaching Trump. Yesterday was, however, a high-water mark in terms of votes his efforts have received.