The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time.
There were few surprises from Pennsylvania’s evenly split congressional delegation. All nine Democrats voted to impeach the president on a charge of “incitement of insurrection,” and all nine Republicans voted against Trump’s removal. The partisan split held in New Jersey and Delaware as well.
The final tally was 232-197, with all Democrats and 10 Republicans supporting impeachment.
Two extremely different interpretations emerged Wednesday of the violent pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol last week, and of the president’s words to members of that mob before they stormed the building.
Some Republicans argued that Trump didn’t directly incite violence that ended with five people dead, and that impeaching him now would be needlessly divisive. Democrats argued that Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election, baseless allegations of fraud, and calls for supporters to “be strong” and “take back our country” clearly prompted the mob to riot.
A few representatives, like Scott Perry (R, PA-10) went a step further than many members of his caucus — baselessly insinuating that Democratic leaders purposefully ignored signs that a violent insurrection was coming.
“What did the Speaker know, and what did other legislative leaders know and when did they know it?” he asked. “Maybe [there’s] a rush to impeach the president so we’ll never know what legislative leaders knew.”
Perry is one of Trump’s most ardent supporters in the Pennsylvania delegation, and is the member who formally contested the commonwealth’s election results, after winning his own competitive race in November.
Guy Reschenthaler (R, PA-14), opted for the more standard GOP party line argument against impeachment.
“President Trump has committed to a peaceful and uninterrupted transfer of power, but that’s not good enough for my colleagues,” he said.
Democrats quickly rebutted that the past week had been decidedly not peaceful, and said they believe Trump directly incited the violence that drove them all out of session and into hiding deep in the Capitol.
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, who House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named as one of the chamber’s impeachment managers, summed up most Democrats’ positions in a post on Twitter, saying last week’s tragedy “must have consequences.”
I am honored to serve as an impeachment manager among my esteemed colleagues — it is for the sake of our country, not hate of one man or anyone, but for the love of our country and constitution. https://t.co/V9hAEZObRI
— Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) January 13, 2021
She continued that argument on the floor Wednesday, telling fellow members she believes impeachment is the only appropriate response to Trump’s “dangerous lies.”
“Removing Donald Trump is the beginning of restoring decency and democracy,” she said. “What happened last week will not be forgotten, and what we do this week will long be remembered.”
Reschenthaler and Perry were two of eight Pennsylvania congressmen who, in the hours after the mob seized the Capitol, voted against certifying the commonwealth’s election results. None of those eight have expressed any regrets for their vote, and are all expected to oppose impeachment.
The ninth Republican in the commonwealth’s House delegation, southeastern moderate Brian Fitzpatrick, did not vote against Pennsylvania’s results.
On Tuesday, he signed on to a bipartisan resolution to censure Trump for “for attempting to unlawfully overturn the 2020 Presidential election and for violating his oath of office on January 6th, 2021,” but he argued that impeachment isn’t realistic.
“President Trump’s attempts to undermine the outcome of the 2020 election have been unconscionable … His actions threatened the integrity of our democracy, Congress, and his own Vice President,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “President Trump’s actions, behavior, and language are unacceptable and unbecoming of the office he holds for the next eight days.”
The authors of the resolution said they think impeachment will result in a second acquittal for Trump, which would “further divide and inflame tensions in our nation.”
Ultimately, Fitzpatrick voted against impeachment.
The nine Democrats in Pennsylvania’s House delegation voted for impeachment. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey supports the idea as well.
Some got on board more quickly than others. Congresswoman Susan Wild, a moderate Democrat in a swing district, said late last week that she wanted to remove Trump, but wasn’t sure if impeachment was reasonable given the time constraints. She has since decided to back impeachment.
The one true toss-up remaining in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation is Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who is not running for reelection.
The Senate is not expected to launch its hearings on whether to convict Trump of inciting insurrection until after the president leaves office, and President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote for removal, and at that point, it would essentially just ensure Trump can’t receive his post-presidential pension.
The Senate could also vote separately, by a simple majority, to bar Trump from holding the presidency again.
Toomey, who has always been considered a very conservative Republican, has not officially said he’ll vote to convict Trump — as, for instance, fellow conservative Congresswoman Liz Cheney did this week.
However, Toomey did say he believes Trump committed “impeachable offenses,” and has already called on the president to resign.
He also spoke out in strong opposition of overturning Pennsylvania’s election results, arguing that the election was sound, and that Trump — who he supported in the election — is acting like a “demagogue” and has spread lies about the process.
Get daily updates from WHYY News!