WASHINGTON — The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Friday morning along party lines, setting up a likely vote next week in the full House.
The Judiciary Committee voted 23-17 entirely along party lines to advance the two articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in response to allegations that he improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and blocked lawmakers’ efforts to investigate the incident.
Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, of the Montgomery County-based 4th District, and Mary Gay Scanlon, of the Delaware County-based 5th District, were both “yes” votes on the articles, and have previously called for Trump’s impeachment.
In a statement released by her office after the vote, Dean said that the “facts are uncontested” on the case for impeachment.
“President Trump withheld essential military aid to Ukraine – a democratic ally under siege from Russia – in exchange for help with his 2020 re-election. Then, when he was caught, President Trump refused to cooperate with Congress’s Constitutionally mandated oversight, effectively declaring himself above the law.”
The articles approved by the committee “address the President’s misconduct – both his abuse of power and his subsequent obstruction of Congress,” Dean continued. “Today is not about punishment or hate. It is about love. Love of country. It’s about protecting this country and our precious Constitution for all the Americans yet to come. No one wishes to be where we are today – but this is where we are called to be.”
“Our democracy is rooted in the principle that no one is above the law, and today, we are called upon to defend that principle. We depend on our Constitution – and it depends on us,” Dean concluded.
Scanlon was equally unequivocal in her stance.
“Look, if President Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not impeachable, nothing is,” she said. “The primary check on a president becoming a king is elections. This president abused his powers to undermine our elections.”
The only Pennsylvania Republican on the panel, U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, of southwestern Pennsylvania’s 14th District, was a “no” vote on the articles. On Wednesday, Reschenthaler, a former Navy JAG officer, was thwarted in an effort to amend the articles to remove the obstruction charge against Trump.
Writing on Twitter, Reschenthaler said he joined with other Republicans on the panel to vote against the impeachment articles because “this whole investigation is a sham.” He accused the House’s Democratic majority of “trying to oust [Trump] because they’re terrified he will win re-election.”
Today I joined @JudiciaryGOP to vote against the articles of impeachment, which passed on a party line vote for the first time in our nation's history. This whole investigation is a sham, Dems are trying to oust @realDonaldTrump because they're terrified he will win re-election. pic.twitter.com/xroI9hh9uv
— Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (@GReschenthaler) December 13, 2019
The roll call came after two days of heated sparring among members on the committee. Democrats declared that Trump gave them no choice but to move ahead on the impeachment articles. Republicans, meanwhile, remained steadfast in their defense of the president, arguing that Democrats had their sights set on impeachment since Trump’s inauguration.
What Comes Next
The full House is expected to pass the articles on the House floor next week ahead of a congressional recess. That vote is also expected to be largely partisan, with the likely defection of some moderate Democrats.
If the articles pass the House, Trump will become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House, following Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. President Richard Nixon resigned after the Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him, but before the full House held a vote.
The U.S. Senate is expected to hold an impeachment trial early next year. Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the GOP-led chamber, but the vote is likely to be a difficult one for some vulnerable Republican senators facing tough reelection fights in 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Fox News Thursday night that there’s “no chance the President is going to be removed from office.”
Ahead of Friday’s committee vote, Democrats called impeachment their solemn duty, arguing that Congress couldn’t let Trump’s behavior stand.
“The reason that we’re moving forward on articles of impeachment is that the president of the United States abused his power by soliciting foreign interference in his own reelection, thereby cheating American voters,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.
The Republican reaction
Republicans accused their colleagues in the majority for failing to provide convincing evidence against the president, and they introduced a series of amendments attacking the articles, all of which were voted down Thursday by the Democratic majority.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the committee, called the panel a “rubber stamp” for Democrats’ agenda. He accused Democrats of defining the abuse of power as “anything they want it to mean.” Democrats “don’t care, facts be damned,” he said.
As the epic vote headed into its 12th hour on Thursday night, Tom McClintock, R-Calif., lamented, “I have not heard a new point or an original thought from either side in the last three hours. The same talking points have been repeated over and over again, ad nauseum, by both sides.” He offered a suggestion: “If no one has anything new to add they resist the temptation to inflict what we’ve already heard over and over again.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., surprised the GOP by adjourning the vote late Thursday night, declaring that the vote would be held Friday morning. Republicans on the committee were furious, accusing Nadler of upending schedules and failing to consult them about their plans.
‘We were sent here to obstruct this Congress’
As for the charge that Trump obstructed Congress, at least one Republican congressman appeared to welcome the president’s defiance of Democrats’ demands.
“We were sent here to obstruct this congress, we were sent here to make sure that this power of the purse is actually exercised around this place,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.).
Congress’ approval rating, Buck said, ranks somewhere between shingles and an all-expense-paid trip to North Korea.
“If you issue an article of impeachment for obstructing congress, you’re going to make this president more popular, not less popular. Congress is an embarrassment,” Buck said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) warned that Democrats in swing districts will pay the price for the impeachment.
“I’d tell them for the upcoming year, ‘Rent, don’t buy, here in Washington, D.C.’”
If the Democrats “who promised to come here and work with us on health care and infrastructure vote for this impeachment, they won’t be back. We’ll be holding the gavels.”
Trump’s campaign manager said Thursday that the impeachment proceedings are boosting the president’s re-election prospects.
“This lit up our base, lit up the people that are supporters of the president. They’re frustrated, they’re upset, and that motivates voters,” said campaign manager Brad Parscale, according to The Washington Post. “They have ignited a flame underneath them.”
Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning, “How do you get Impeached when you have done NOTHING wrong (a perfect call), have created the best economy in the history of our Country, rebuilt our Military, fixed the V.A. (Choice!), cut Taxes & Regs, protected your 2nd A, created Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, and soooo much more? Crazy!”