The House is pushing ahead with impeachment while the presidential campaign rams up for 2020.
The process in the Democratic-controlled House seems certain to end in impeachment, which would send the impeached president to the U.S. Senate for trial. It’s happened twice before in U.S. history – and both times the upper chamber decided against removal of the president.
Such an outcome seems certain this time as well. It would take a two-thirds vote of the Senate to oust the president, and in a chamber where a narrow majority of senators is Republican, it’s just not going to happen. In the recent House vote to move the impeachment process forward, not a single Republican voted with the Democratic majority.
The impeachment process is more partisanship than principle – and that is not as the founding fathers intended. Impeachment was not to be a partisan process on par with an election.
In two essays in our Interactive Constitution as cited by the National Constitution Center, Neil J. Kinkopf and Keith E. Whittington looked at the founders’ vision.
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“The Framers meant for the phrase ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ to signify only conduct that seriously harms the public and seriously compromises the officer’s ability to continue. If the phrase is given a less rigorous interpretation, it could allow Congress to influence and control the President and the courts,” Kinkopf stated.
Republicans are correct that even if the conduct of the president regarding conversations with Ukrainian leadership is viewed as wrong, it is hard to see it as “high crimes and misdemeanors” justifying removal from office.
“When the Founders wanted to ensure accountability, they mostly relied on elections and the voters to hold government officials responsible for their actions,” Whittington stated.
Relying on the election is exactly what Congress should be doing in 2019, standing down from an impeachment proceeding that is setting a terrible precedent for presidents going forward.
Impeachment should be a last resort. Building support for it should not be difficult across party lines when circumstances make the national situation dire should the chief executive continue in office. It’s not about like or dislike of a president.
The present impeachment course would be seen as wrong in the eyes of the founders, as would be laying the groundwork for repeating it going forward.