The US House marched toward a historic evening vote to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, with Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisting Congress must “defend democracy” by evicting him from the White House.
Trump would be just the third American president to be impeached, a distinctive dark mark on his tenure.
Trump said that despite the Democrats’ patriotic talk, they were actually perpetrating “an assault on America.”
Pelosi invoked the Pledge of Allegiance and the Preamble to the Constitution in arguing that the Founders’ vision for a republic was threatened by the actions by Trump in the White House.
“Today we are here to defend democracy for the people,’’ she said to applause from Democrats in the chamber. “I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States.”
Republicans swiftly came to the president’s defense.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia warned that the Founders were just as concerned about a purely partisan impeachment, as this one is on track to become, wielded by the power of a majority party.
“This is not a solemn occasion,” he mocked. “You’ve been wanting to do this ever since the gentlemen was elected.’’
The rare undertaking to impeach a president, unfolding over a long day of debate, has split the lawmakers in Congress much the way Americans have different views of Trump’s unusual presidency and the articles of impeachment against him. Final votes were expected late in the evening.
Democrats overwhelmingly approved the rules for the debate, 228-197, with just two defections from Pelosi’s ranks, an early indication of how the votes will eventually fall on the articles of impeachment.
No Republicans supported the procedural vote, but Democrats picked up backing from Rep. Justin Amash, the Michigan conservative, who left the GOP this year to become an independent over his support for impeachment.
Trump tweeted his outrage with even more capital letters and exclamation marks than usual: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!”
SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2019