Nov 1, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Trump impeachment starts more partisan than Bill Clinton's

The floor of the House of Representatives packed with Congresspeople.

A shot you rarely see: Cameras were allowed in the House chamber yesterday. Above the flag, over the clock, is the press gallery. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

During the House's historic vote to set the ground rules for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, members shouted and booed as the votes popped up in lights on the wall above them.

Why it matters: The Legislative Branch embarks on its ultimate weapon against the Executive Branch with the two parties locked in corners.

  • You could see Republicans shaking their heads as the "Yea" votes soared.
  • Speaker Pelosi lost only two Democrats; no Republicans crossed over.

Flashback: It wasn't this stark 21 years ago, for the 1998 vote launching the impeachment of William J. Clinton: 31 Democrats joined all Republicans in setting up a formal process for considering impeachment, Paul Kane points out in the WashPost:

  • "Look, it's just a more partisan time," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), told Kane. "Each party is much more cohesive."
  • Sign of the times: "In 1998, two of Connecticut’s five members of the House were Republicans and three of Arkansas’s four-member delegation were Democrats. Today, ... Connecticut [is] fully Democratic and Arkansas fully Republican."
  • "Back in 1998, Clinton was dramatically more popular than Trump is today — his job approval rating never fell below 60 percent even as his personal scandals spun out into the open, month after month."
  • "Clinton’s highest [Gallup] rating, 73 percent, came the weekend the House approved two articles of impeachment against him."
A chart of how members voted during Clinton's impeachment.
Chart: AP

Tale of the tape, from AP: The only Democratic "no"s were Reps. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey freshman, and 28-year veteran Collin Peterson of Minnesota, one of the House's most conservative Democrats.

  • Both are battling for reelection in Republican-leaning districts.
  • Also supporting the rules: independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the GOP this year after announcing he was open to impeachment.
The New York Times headline: Fractured House backs impeachment inquiry.

David Brooks writes: "Is it possible that more than 20 Republican senators will vote to convict Donald Trump of articles of impeachment? When you hang around Washington you get the sense that it could happen." ...

  • "And yet when you get outside Washington it’s hard to imagine more than one or two G.O.P. senators voting to convict."

Go deeper: The impeachment story beyond the formal vote

Go deeper