Despite a plea by many to focus on a peaceful transition of power and warnings against fomenting further political upheaval following the unconscionable violence at the U.S. Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) stoked the flames of impeachment this week to punish the departing president. The House passed two resolutions, the first ordering Vice President Mike Pence to convene a meeting of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and declare the sitting president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
In a letter of response to Speaker Pelosi, Vice President Pence responded that with just eight days left in his term, “I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution.” The Vice President urged the Speaker and every member of Congress to “avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment” and to work together to “unite the country.”
A second resolution was introduced for the purpose of “Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.” Two hours of debate was equally divided between the parties, and a vote on the resolution passed 232-197 with ten Republicans joining the Democrats in favor of the impeachment resolution.
Meanwhile, political punishment and retribution were aggressively directed at members of Congress who opposed the certification of electors in particular states over serious irregularities in the election process. Concerned Women for America (CWA) CEO and President Penny Nance joined conservative leaders in calling out the “opportunistic attempts by some to use last week’s events as a pretext to dismiss legitimate concerns about election irregularities, and illegal and unconstitutional actions.”
In their memo titled “Cruz, Hawley, Brooks, and colleagues follow the Constitution,” Nance and leaders of the Conservative Action Project denounce the attack on the Capitol but defend the constitutional mandate of Congress:
“Conservatives condemn the violent actions that took place at the United States Capitol last week. Our self-government is founded upon the rule of law, and violence as a form of protest is never acceptable. Unlike most Democrats, we condemned the violent actions of rioters over the summer. We condemn the recent violence with equal vigor.
“But one thing is also clear: the actions of 8 Senators and 139 House members, including Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz, and many others, who intended to or did debate the certification of certain states’ 2020 electors is not, and never will be, tantamount to violence. The right and ability to object to electoral certification is written into the Constitution and housed in the procedural rights of those who represent us.”
The timeline for what happens next is unresolved and is anyone’s guess. Under the Constitution, the House is required to transmit formally the impeachment resolution to the Senate. The Senate is required to hold a trial with House managers bringing the charges against the president and the president’s defense responding to the charges. But President Trump will no longer be president as of noon on January 20. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced that he will not call the Senate back before its scheduled return on January 19 since time does not allow for a serious trial to be conducted before Inauguration Day. After that point, a new party will control the reins of the U.S. Senate, and a new president will occupy the White House. It will be incumbent on them to determine the path forward. Will they choose to work to unite the country or to continue stoking the flames of political division?