On Wednesday night, in a vote almost exclusively on party lines, Donald Trump became the first Republican president to become impeached—and the only one to suffer this fate during his first term in office. In voting for two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, House Democrats gifted their base with the present they’ve had on their wish list for years. But will it pay off politically for the Democrats—or could it turn into a lump of coal in the party’s collective stocking?
The vote against impeachment was actually bipartisan, at least to the extent that a few Democrats bailed on their own party. Republicans unanimously opposed it, but Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew voted with the GOP, a party he’ll be switching to shortly. For her part, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard fudged, voting “present” on both articles of impeachment. Gabbard explained, “I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing. I also could not in good conscience voter for impeachment because removal of a sitting president must not be the culmination of a partisan process.”
All day the House floor consisted of a procession of congressmen with little, if any, name recognition outside their home districts, taking their time in the spotlight to opine on impeachment. Some remarks, though, were notable. “If this impeachment is successful, the next president, I promise you, is going to be impeached, and the next president after that. If you set this bar as being impeachable, every president in our future will be impeached,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT). Many Republicans view the process as a case of congressional overreach, one that is bound to impinge upon Congress’ halting efforts to regain some of its sway in foreign policy that has, willy-nilly, been ceded to the White House over the decades.