WASHINGTON — House Democrats took their first major step towards attempting to remove President Trump from office Tuesday, voting to call on Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to take the presidency out of Trump’s hands. Just one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted with Democrats.
The vote comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued an ultimatum to Pence earlier this week, in response to the violent insurrectionist attack that resulted in five deaths, including one Capitol Police officer. Pelosi told Pence to invoke section four of the 25th Amendment or else the House would move forward with impeaching Trump a second time. That section, which has never been invoked in US history, allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove a president from office if they believe he is no longer fit to serve; the president can then appeal that decision to Congress.
"Removal of the president is an unprecedented action but it is absolutely required because of the unprecedented dangers that he poses,” said Pelosi. "Who knows what he might do next?"
The resolution, which passed the House 223–205, is a request and is not binding. Before the vote, however, Pence announced he will not invoke the 25th Amendment.
Pence dismissed the resolution as “political games” and said the 25th Amendment provisions were only designed for cases when the president was deemed mentally incapacitated. “Under our Constitution, the 25th Amendment is not a means of punishment or usurpation. Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent,” Pence wrote in a letter to Pelosi.
Pelosi’s next move will be to start impeachment proceedings; she named the managers who will make the case against Trump during a Senate trial Tuesday night. There is enough support in the House to impeach the president due to overwhelming support from Democrats. Four House Republicans — Reps. John Katko, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and Fred Upton — have already said they will vote for impeachment.
But that is only the first half of the process. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict Trump for him to be removed from office or face consequences such as being barred from serving as president again. Conviction would require support from about one-third of Republican senators. A year ago the House voted to impeach Trump but the Senate acquitted him. Sen. Mitt Romney was the lone Republican who voted to convict. No president has ever been impeached twice.
But there are signs this time might be different. Republicans have expressed unprecedented levels of anger at Trump over the siege of the Capitol. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said privately that Trump committed impeachable offenses.
It is unlikely that an impeachment trial in the Senate would be completed before Trump leaves office, meaning it would play out over the beginning days of Joe Biden’s presidential term.
Several Republicans spoke against the resolution, saying that Democrats were perverting the Constitution and dividing the country. Rep. Tom McClintock called it "a grotesque abuse of the 25th Amendment" while wearing a mask emblazoned with the words "This Mask Is Useless."
Democrats argued that Trump is a clear and present danger who could encourage and incite further revolts against his election loss. "He lives in an alternate reality. He's a continuing threat to America," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
The House resolution that passed Tuesday reads in part, “[T]he insurrectionary mob threatened the safety and lives of the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the President pro tempore of the Senate, the first three individuals in the line of succession to the presidency, as the rioters were recorded chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence’ and ‘Where’s Nancy’ when President Donald J. Trump tweeted to his supporters that ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country’ after the Capitol had been overrun and the Vice President was in hiding.”
The resolution goes on to say that Trump has “demonstrated repeatedly, continuously, and spectacularly his absolute inability to discharge the most basic and fundamental powers and duties of his office,” including respecting election results and a peaceful transfer of power, the duty to protect lawmakers and their constituents, and “generally the duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
It calls on Pence and the Cabinet “to declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”
The resolution was drafted by Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and was put to a full House vote Tuesday after Republicans objected to passing it via what’s known as “unanimous consent” — meaning it passes without a full vote if no member objects — the day before.
Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia objected Monday, forcing Tuesday’s floor vote. Mooney said in a statement, “The US House must never adopt a resolution that demands the removal of a duly elected president, without any hearings, debate, or recorded votes.”
In a release Sunday, Pelosi said she would give Pence 24 hours to invoke the 25th Amendment following the passage of the resolution or the House would move forward with impeaching Trump. House Democrats have already circulated an article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” and have secured the votes to impeach the president for a second time.
Pelosi announced Tuesday that Raskin will serve as the lead impeachment manager to make the case against Trump during a Senate trial. The other impeachment managers will be: Reps. Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Joe Neguse, and Madeleine Dean.
Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 and charged with two counts, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, after he solicited interference in the 2020 election from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump was the third president in US history to be impeached and is set to be the first to ever be impeached twice.
The impeachment vote is expected Wednesday, as Pence has not indicated he plans to invoke the 25th Amendment.