Local members of Congress take party line on impeachment issue
When it comes to the question of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s actions, our local members of Congress come down on either side of the issue in predictable party ways.
Democrats Susan Wild, who represents Lehigh, Northampton and part of Monroe counties, and Matt Cartwright, who represents the other part of Monroe, are now on board favoring the inquiry, while Republican Dan Meuser, who represents Carbon and Schuylkill counties, is vehemently opposed.
The central question is whether Trump stepped over the line in a July 25 phone conversation with the newly elected president of Ukraine and asked him to assist in a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian company.
First, let’s clear up some confusion on what impeachment is and is not. Two of our presidents have been impeached, but neither was forced to leave office, because neither was convicted.
“Impeachment” is similar to a charge and indictment against a defendant — in this case the president of the United States. The U.S. Constitution lays out the procedure that must be followed.
The charge must be brought in the House of Representatives. If a majority of House members concludes that there is justification to sustain the indictment, the spotlight shifts to the Senate for a trial, where two-thirds of the 100-member body must vote to convict before a president can be kicked out of office.
In the two cases where impeachment actions were taken — against Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — the House sustained the charges, but the Senate did not convict.
In a third impeachment inquiry, President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of impeachment but before the full House acted on the charges.
The Constitution provides that the president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” What these “other high crimes and misdemeanors” might involve has been left to the judiciary to interpret.
As for our local representatives, Wild, who had been on the fence about impeachment until Ukraine issue became the tipping point, said the use of public office to target political opponents and invite foreign interference in our elections is “unequivocally unacceptable.”
She also criticized Trump’s “repeated obstruction and stonewalling of Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibilities.”
Wild acknowledged that hers is a swing district and that her decision will not be popular among Trump supporters.
“Should we have to proceed down this route, it is the only decision that would be consistent with the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution,” she said.
Cartwright left some wiggle room by saying that members of Congress need to “get to the bottom of these serious allegations through comprehensive impeachment proceedings and document production,” because, he added, “at some point, it becomes necessary to announce certain conduct by an American president as unacceptable.”
As an ardent Trump supporter, Meuser sees the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as an unlawful way to remove the president from office. He accused House leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats of focusing on creating a “far-fetched scandal related to a phone call with a foreign government leader.”
Meuser said the Democrats are rushing to judgment without having all of the relevant facts.
“This farce, which chooses to push a presumption of guilt where evidence is nonexistent, is nothing short of a constitutional embarrassment for our country.”
One thing you can be sure of is that the road down the impeachment mountain will be a bumpy one for members of both parties. Trump supporters will surround the wagons to protect the president, while his opponents will try to make a case for ending his presidency and short circuit his bid for another four years.
Many Democratic House members know that this will be a perilous journey that could cost them their jobs, especially in swing districts, but officeholders such as Wild say that acting on behalf of the country trumps their remaining in office.
As for the president, he has branded the call for the inquiry as another Democratic witch hunt.
By Bruce Frassinelli | firstname.lastname@example.org