The Republican Party has come a long way since the first impeachment of President Trump, relative to the second one.
It’s astonishing that such a comparison can even be made.
In a vote of 232-197, on the one-week anniversary of the Capitol riot, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for a second time on the grounds that he incited it.
Unsurprisingly, all voting Democrats said “aye” for the single article of impeachment, though quite notably, 10 House Republicans also voted for the measure.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the current (but probably not-for-much-longer) chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, was the highest-ranking GOP representative to do so.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said on Tuesday. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
The nine others were Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, New York Rep. John Katko, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Michigan Rep. Pete Meijer, Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, and California Rep. David Valadao.
All of them, to some degree or another, staked their political careers on this vote. Meijer and Valadao, two freshmen members themselves, must have considered that one term may well be all they get.
House GOP leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, opposed the impeachment, but he also actively discouraged GOP members from publicly criticizing those in the caucus who do support it. That from McCarthy alone is demonstrative of how everything about this impeachment was different from the last.
Though it passed with only Democratic votes, House Republicans voted as a unified block in December 2019 to reject two articles of impeachment brought against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, following his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said with resolution in November 2019 that he was confident that any impeachment in the House would not lead to Trump’s removal by the Senate. On this impeachment, McConnell has been mum, but the few reports that have trickled out about his stance suggest he is at least sympathetic to impeaching Trump this time around.
Further, the going Republican defense of Trump during the first impeachment was that Democrats were just out for blood, that nothing about Trump’s call rose to the level of an impeachable offense.
Now, Republicans opposed to this impeachment have pivoted to arguing that it is bad for the party, bad for the cause of unity. None are defending what Trump did last Wednesday.
Again, the political conditions, the president’s actions, the Capitol assault — everything about Impeachment One was different from Impeachment Two. The Republican Party couldn’t have expected every member to pretend that conditions were the same or that they merited the same, uniform response. It looks like McCarthy, at the very least, came to terms with that.
Two impeachments. What a way to end a presidency.