Updated Dec 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Congress erupts after court disqualifies Trump from Colorado ballot

Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The Colorado Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday to disqualify former President Trump from the state's 2024 ballot quickly touched off fierce reactions from members of Congress in both parties.

Why it matters: The case has the potential to reignite an explosive national debate about the nature of the Jan. 6 riot and the degree to which the former president should be held accountable for the violence.

Driving the news: Four of the seven judges on the court ruled that the 14th Amendment's prohibition on individuals who "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" from holding office applies to Trump, the first such state to do so.

  • The case is likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the Trump campaign vowing to appeal and the Colorado judges issuing a stay until Jan. 4 to allow the federal judiciary to adjudicate it.
  • Similar cases are making their way through the courts in several dozen other states.

What they're saying: "There is no way this holds," one House Republican told Axios. "There is no way the 14th Amendment was intended to be applied in this way."

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a statement the ruling is "nothing but a thinly veiled partisan attack," adding that he trusts the Supreme Court "will set aside this reckless decision."
  • House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) blasted the Colorado Supreme Court majority as "four partisan Democrat operatives" in a statement, predicting the ruling "will backfire and further strengthen President Trump's winning campaign."

Zoom in: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a member of Senate GOP leadership, introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at punishing states that make such rulings.

  • The three-page bill would amend the Help America Vote Act to withhold federal election administration funds to states "misusing the Fourteenth Amendment for political purposes."
  • It would also clarify that the Supreme Court has "sole jurisdiction" to adjudicate such 14th Amendment cases.

The other side: Several Democrats who have championed the case against Trump being allowed to run in 2024 applauded the ruling.

  • House Oversight Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who served as an impeachment manager in Trump's Jan. 6-focused Senate trial, said the ruling is "solidly rooted in law and in fact."
  • "If the [Supreme] Court takes remotely seriously its profession of faith in original intent and textualism, then it will have to affirm" the ruling, he added. "The original meaning ... is precisely to forbid people who have betrayed their oath by trying to overthrow the constitutional order."
  • Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), another impeachment manager, said "it was very clear to me that the evidence showed Trump called for and incited the mob on January 6."

What we're watching: While applauding the ruling, Raskin acknowledged the potential for political violence in response to it.

  • "This is the problem," he said. "Whenever the police and prosecutors go after organized crimes or violent gangs, there is always the fear that enforcing the law against them could lead to further violence."
  • "It's something America needs to be prepared to stop."
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