The men and women of the 117th Congress started breaking records the moment they were sworn in, and they aren’t letting up. This Congress – much like the last – has more members who are women, black, Latino, or who identify as LGBTQ than any that came before. Now, the 117th Congress follows in the footsteps of the 116th once again to impeach – mostly along party lines – President Donald J. Trump. And in so doing, they break yet another record: Thanks to the combined efforts of the 116th and 117th, Trump is the first president in history to be impeached twice.
A Most Irregular Process
Three presidents – including the man under the ax today – have been impeached, with another escaping impeachment by resigning and several more facing threats of impeachment that failed to launch. In almost all cases, the impeachment began with some committee investigation. But there is a precedent for the fast-track impeachment brought straight to the floor by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The very first president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, was impeached a mere three days after firing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in violation of the Tenure of Office Act.
But the greatest break in tradition is the attempt to impeach a president, not only for the second time, but with just a week remaining in his term. Despite the president’s assurance that he will concede his power and transfer the office to President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, Democrats claim that the impeachment is critical because there’s no telling what damage Donald Trump or his followers could do if left in office. In addition to concerns that he’ll incite riots, Democrats also cite worries that President Trump might pardon the rioters or declassify and even monetize state secrets as an act of spite. They also admit, however, what many Republicans have alleged: Impeaching President Trump a second time with just a week left in office is, at least in large part, about making sure he can’t run again in 2024.
Politics as Usual?
Three votes occurred today in this impeachment process. On ordering the previous question – which means ending the debate and voting – 221 Democrats voted “yea,” and 205 Republicans voted “nay.” Not a single Democrat voted to continue discussing. Not a single Republican voted to stop the debate, though six – Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Kay Granger (R-TX), Andy Harris (R-MD), Greg Murphy (R-NC), Michelle Steel (R-CA), and Daniel Webster (R-FL) – didn’t vote at all.
Immediately afterward, they voted on House Resolution 41: the movement to vote on impeachment. Once again, not a single Democrat voted against, and no Republican voted for. With eight Republicans not voting, the motion passed 221-203. In this vote, the six Republicans who abstained from voting in the last one were joined by Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Il) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Then began the two hours of debate on House Resolution 24: the second impeachment of Donald Trump. From the summary of the Resolution itself, we see the Democrats’ charges:
- “prior to the joint session of Congress held on January 6, 2021, to count the votes of the electoral college, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were fraudulent and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by state or federal officials;
- shortly before the joint session commenced, President Trump reiterated false claims to a crowd near the White House and willfully made statements to the crowd that encouraged and foreseeably resulted in lawless action at the Capitol;
- members of the crowd, incited by President Trump, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol and engaged in other violent, destructive, and seditious acts, including the killing of a law enforcement officer;
- President Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the presidential election, which included a threatening phone call to the Secretary of State of Georgia on January 2, 2021;
- President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government, threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government; and
- by such conduct, President Trump warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold U.S. office.”
After Democrats and Republicans took turns arguing their points, the vote went basically as expected. President Trump was impeached, again – by a mostly party-line vote, again. Not a single Democrat voted against impeachment – though ten Republicans voted in favor
A Bipartisan Effort?
During the debate, Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA) said they would vote for the second impeachment of President Trump. They did exactly that – and they weren’t alone. With a final result of 232-197 in favor of the resolution, President Trump has been impeached a second time – with ten Republicans signing on against him and four refusing to vote at all.
Interestingly enough, none of the abstainers from the previous two votes actually said “yea” for impeachment. Reps. Granger, Harris, Murphy, and Webster were the four who didn’t vote this last round, and the remaining Republicans who didn’t vote before now voted not to impeach. The ten who voted against President Trump were Anthony Gonzales of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Tom Rice of South Carolina, Fred Upton of Michigan, David Valadao of California, and, of course, Reps. Newhouse, Cheney, and Herrera Beutler.
Democrats had hoped for a bipartisan showing in the House to inspire the 17 GOP senators required to pull off a two-thirds majority for conviction. Will ten of the 211 Republican representatives – just shy of 5% – suffice? With an equal percentage of GOP senators – three, if we round up – the Democrats will still fall well short of removing the president.
Read more from James Fite.