For all the drama of impeachment, there really isn’t much suspense.
That reality was laid bare shortly after 10 this morning, as one by one, 40 members of the House Judiciary Committee solemnly delivered their judgment on the charges against President Donald Trump. All 23 Democrats on the panel voted to recommend articles accusing the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, sending them to the full House for consideration next week. All 17 Republicans voted no.
The vote was a formal but long-foreseen conclusion to the 14-hour freewheeling and sharp-edged debate that ended late last night, when Chairman Jerry Nadler abruptly adjourned the committee’s meeting over protests from Republicans who were trying to force Democrats to vote on impeachment in the dark of night. And it was likely also a preview of the outcome next week, when the much larger grand jury of the entire House will decide whether to send the two articles to the Senate for trial. The marathon committee debate was likely Republicans’ last, best chance to try to disrupt, if not derail, the impeachment push.
The House impeachment inquiry began with a highly partisan vote in late October, when not a single Republican joined Democrats to support a resolution on rules governing the investigation. If anything, the divide has only deepened since then. A line of current and former government witnesses attesting to a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine, linking foreign aid to an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, has done little to move either ossified public opinion or Republicans in Congress. In the Intelligence Committee, the lone GOP panel member on the fence, the retiring Representative Will Hurd of Texas, came out against impeachment at the conclusion of the panel’s public hearings. There are no such movable Republicans on the more Trump-aligned Judiciary Committee, making this morning’s vote a formality. And though, officially, there are a few undecided Republicans in the broader conference, GOP leaders have declared with confidence that none will break with the president on either article. (A former Republican turned independent, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, is for impeachment.)