WASHINGTON — On the House floor, impeachment is all but certain, with a sizable Democratic majority in the chamber assuring that both articles against President Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — will be endorsed. Yet the starkly partisan nature of the vote has forced Democrats to explain why no Republicans are expected to vote in favor of impeachment.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, says Republicans have “chosen power over principle.”
She lamented how strenuously Republicans were protecting the president. They have, for the most part, steadfastly maintained that there was nothing improper in Trump’s pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce politically motivated investigations, including into the DNC.
Yet even as the GOP condemns impeachment publicly, Wasserman Schultz says there are “plenty of Republicans who speak behind their hand and whisper to us that they know what he did was wrong.”
She has her own idea of why these members aren’t speaking up.
“They’re petrified of being defeated in a Republican primary,” Wasserman Schultz suggested. She thought that if the impeachment vote were held after the deadlines to file as a primary candidate, some Republicans could vote with Democrats. As it stood, no Republicans are expected to defect.
Wasserman Schultz called that refusal to buck Trump the “funeral of the modern Republican Party.”
Democrats were, for the most part, grim but determined in their demeanor.
Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, introduced a resolution of impeachment against Trump in 2017, becoming the first member of Congress to do so. Yet he was hardly jubilant on Wednesday, even as impeachment was only hours away.
Aware that a trial in a Republican-controlled Senate was bound to absolve Trump, he compared impeachment to the sword of Damocles, which would continue to hang over the president even if he evaded the gravest consequences of its blow — that is, removal from office — as a consequence of the Ukraine pressure campaign.
“We’ve all been vindicated,” Green told Yahoo News. “This is not about whether you like the president; it’s about whether you love your country,” he added.
Green noted that about half of Americans now supported impeachment, which was once seen as an untenable partisan goal. But, he said, “You don’t do this for polls.”
The choice to impeach was easy for both Green and Wasserman Schultz, who represent heavily Democratic districts. The choice was much more difficult for Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who represents a pro-Trump, blue-collar district in southeastern Michigan. A former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, Slotkin announced her decision in a widely shared op-ed for the Detroit Free Press.
Speaking on Wednesday ahead of the vote, Slotkin reiterated that she was not pressured by Democratic leadership to vote for impeachment.
“Really, I was not whipped,” she said, using the Capitol Hill term to describe the practice of party leaders garnering votes from members. Slotkin said that on the same morning the House prepared to impeach Trump, first-term Democrats from “tough districts” had met to discuss their legislative agenda for 2020 — an agenda, presumably, that will involve no more talk of what Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine.
Slotkin mentioned prescription-drug pricing as a particularly pressing issue for her constituents.
Republicans, for their part, believe voters in divided districts will not forgive pro-impeachment Democrats for Wednesday’s votes. “Today may be the only consequential vote they ever cast,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., of first-term Democrats from swing districts. “Because they won’t be back.”
Meadows also discounted any notion of Republican dissent. “I’m not aware of anybody fretting over voting to support the president,” he said. “In the privacy of our Republican conference,” Meadows told Yahoo News, “not only are they unified, but they’re not even whispering any talk about not being unified.”
And predictions of a GOP demise were, according to Meadows, pure exaggeration. “They only hope,” he said, “that this is the end of the modern GOP.”
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