WASHINGTON — As the House marches on to impeach President Donald Trump, Democrats seem unfazed about the likely acquittal on the Senate side. For many, they say they’re following their constitutional responsibility regardless of what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican-led Senate plans to do.
“We have a constitutional duty to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Rep. Tony Cardenás told BuzzFeed News. “We swore that when we got sworn in, and we're exercising our duty. Now, if another house, such as the Senate, the leader of the Senate doesn't want to uphold his constitutional duty or encourage or advocate something else, that's up to them. It's on us to do our job, first and foremost, and we're doing our job today.”
On Tuesday, McConnell told reporters he’s not an impartial juror and told Fox News he would be “coordinating with White House counsel” on how to handle the trial. After Sen. Chuck Schumer proposed rules for the Senate trial that included calling witnesses to appear, McConnell struck down the idea, arguing it’s not the Senate’s job to “rerun the entire fact-finding investigation.”
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But even if impeachment is set to go nowhere in the Senate, House members are pushing forward anyway.
“In the end, everything we hope to achieve as a country depends on our institutions continuing to function,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “It doesn’t depend on what the Senate does this week or next. It depends on whether in the light of history, we stand up for what's right and save our constitution in the process.”
Rep. Karen Bass, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, which brought both articles of impeachment before the House, said the president forced Congress’s hand.
“He left us with no choice because he's trying to interfere in the election,” Bass told BuzzFeed News Wednesday morning. “If we were to do nothing he would continue to interfere. So, in essence, we're watching him. We're watching a crime while it's being committed.” Bass went on to say she’s still concerned about interference after Rudy Giuliani’s recent trip to Ukraine.
Rep. Al Green, who came out in favor of impeachment just months after Trump took office, was a bit more optimistic about the Senate’s outcome. “If [the Senate] does perform its duty, in my opinion, the president will be convicted and removed from office. But I don't think that we should just conclude that the Senate won't act based upon stories. … We have to give the Senate an opportunity to act.”
“When the president commits an impeachable act, the House has a duty to go forward, and you have to give the Senate the opportunity to perform its duties,” Green told BuzzFeed News.
“The president cannot be given the perception that Congress doesn't have the courage to do what the Constitution requires and protect the balance of power and let the president know that there are boundaries,” he added.
Other members used the Nixon impeachment as an example of what could happen.
“The Watergate class didn't have … any sense that the votes existed in the Senate side. I think for so much of everything that we're trying to do is for the good of the people,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who introduced her own impeachment inquiry resolution back in May.
Even moderate Democrats who held out on impeachment until the last minute said they’re fulfilling their role to uphold the Constitution.
“I just don't think that's how rules and laws and standards work,” Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin told BuzzFeed News, defending why she’s voting yes to impeach, given that the Senate will likely acquit the president. “You just don’t put your thumb in the air and test the winds and see how they’re blowing and decide if someone did something wrong or right. I just can’t support this idea that all decisions in Washington have to be made based on cynical political calculus.”
“There is something called right and wrong,” she added.
“Accountability still matters,” New York Rep. Max Rose told BuzzFeed News in an interview Wednesday morning. “The Constitution still matters. It’s as simple as that for me.”
Like Slotkin, the first-term Democrat announced within a week of the impeachment vote that he would vote yes, despite pressure campaigns from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is backing Rose's Republican opponent, Nicole Malliotakis, in 2020.
Addy Baird contributed to this story.