The House voted Tuesday to call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and deem President Trump unfit for office.
The vote happened as tensions escalated between Democrats and Republicans in the days following an unprecedented attack on the U.S. Capitol largely blamed on Trump and GOP lawmakers who backed his claim the election was stolen from him.
While the measure passed, it is non-binding and serves as the opening act in the Democratic effort this week to remove Trump from office before his term expires on January 20.
The House Wednesday will debate and pass an article of impeachment that charges Trump with inciting an insurrection, a reference to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump protesters that left five people dead, dozens injured and the Capitol damaged.
“The president instigated this,” Rep. Tom Souzzi, a New York Democrat, said on the House floor, feet away from a glass door that was shattered by protesters attempting to enter the chamber on January 6 and where one of them was shot and killed by police.
Souzzi said there are reports that pro-Trump protesters plan to commit more violent acts in the days leading up to Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.
“We must together call upon the president to denounce this violence to tell his supporters to stay home,” Souzzi said. “Mr. President you must please put America first. You must call off this attack, if not, you must be removed.”
Republicans argued the resolution made little sense. Vice President Mike Pence said he did not believe Trump should be removed prior to the end of his term about a week from now.
In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pence on Tuesday urged Congress “to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment.”
Pence said invoking the 25th Amendment on Trump was not appropriate because he is not incapacitated and doing so, “would set a terrible precedent.”
Republicans, during the debate on the resolution, said the Constitution only allows the vice president and Cabinet to make the determination that the president is unfit for office, not Congress.
“What the majority is asking the House to pursue is assume a role it does not have,” Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said. “That power lies with the vice president and we should be realistic about what this resolution actually is. It is an attempt to pressure the vice president into performing a duty he clearly believes is not necessary at this time.”
Freshman Rep. Lisa McClain, a Michigan Republican, accused Democrats of a double standard when it comes to inciting violence. She pointed to speeches by Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, and Pelosi, that appeared to call for uprisings or other violent resistance to the Trump administration.
“Doesn’t everybody need to play by the same rules?” McClain said. “Can we all agree that our emotions sometimes get in the way because we love this country so much? Impeachment only incites more division, it does not provide unity.”
By tomorrow afternoon, Trump is poised to become the only president to ever be twice impeached by Congress, but the Senate is unlikely to vote on the article until Trump is out of office, raising legal questions about whether he can be convicted at all.
Before voting on the resolution requesting Pence remove Trump, lawmakers approved a measure governing debate that included additional language imposing new rules on the House floor and allowing lawmakers to directly criticize the president during debate. The measure imposed fines up to $2,500 for members who don’t wear a face mask.
The House Tuesday also installed new metal detectors at the chamber entrances, subjecting lawmakers for the first time to the screening requirements all others must submit to when entering the Capitol.
Some Republican lawmakers were angry as they attempted to enter the chamber and set off the detectors, which tend to pick up belt buckles, change and other metals.
The House Administration Committee ranking member, Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican, approached Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, and told him the GOP should have been consulted on the unprecedented new security. “Steny this is horseshit,” Davis said to Hoyer as reporters looked on.
Back on the House floor, Republicans said Democrats were taking the nation and the U.S. Capitol on a dangerous and divisive course with new fines, metal detectors and their efforts to remove Trump despite his looming exit from power just days from now.
“’I’ve been here 14 years I’ve never seen anything like this,” Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said. “And I do not know where this ends. I do not know where it ends, but it is dangerous where they’re taking us. You couple this with what we’re seeing with the canceled culture out there. I fear for the first amendment, I fear for the second amendment, I fear for the Bill of Rights I fear for the constitution.
The House convenes at 9 a.m. Wednesday to take up the impeachment resolution. With 218 Democrats and at least three GOP lawmakers planning to vote for it, Trump will be twice impeached by early afternoon.