The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday (Dec. 18) held an historic vote in which President Donald Trump was impeached in two votes largely along party lines. All four members of Arkansas’ House delegation voted against the impeachment articles.
On the Abuse of Power (Article 1) question, the vote was 230 for and 197 against, with two Democrats voting against impeachment and no Republicans voting for Article 1. On the Obstruction of Congress (Article 2) question, the vote was 229 for and 198 against, with three Democrats voting against impeachment and no Republicans voting for Article 2.
The two articles of impeachment accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his behavior in the controversy surrounding military aid to Ukraine and relations with the new Ukranian President, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump is accused of asking Zelensky to investigate potential corruption involving Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine. Through a call summary released by the White House, testimony from witnesses in the House Intelligence Committee, and on-the-record comments from Trump and his administration officials, Democrats have produced evidence they claim supports their claims of abuse. Republican Congressional leaders and the president have either denied parts of the evidence presented, complained that it does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, or avoided providing testimony that would refute some of the claims.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a House leader of the impeachment effort, alleged that the president clearly abused the powers of his office, sought foreign interference in an election and obstructed justice.
“In America, no one is above the law. Donald J. Trump sacrificed our national security in an effort to cheat in the next election. And for that, and his continued efforts to seek foreign interference in our elections, he must be impeached,” Schiff noted in his closing remarks.
House Minority Leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said prior to the vote that the Democrats seek to impeach Trump because they fear they can’t beat him in the 2020 general election.
“Will we let impeachment become an exercise of raw political power, regardless if it damages our country? Or will we protect the proper grounds and process for impeachment now and in the future?” McCarthy said on the House floor.
McCarthy also said the American people would have the final say on the”baseless” impeachment process in November 2020.
Following is a statement from U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, who rose to speak against the two articles of impeachment.
“Today is a sad day for our country and the people’s House. Instead of fighting for priorities that will make a difference in the lives of American families, House Democrats have focused a majority of their agenda on this impeachment moment. It has consumed them since the hour they learned the results of the 2016 election. It’s exactly why we witnessed an inquiry driven by politics, hearsay, and a pre-determined outcome – not one rooted in fairness or facts. And, for the first time in history, impeachment is expected to move forward with a party-line vote. Although this process is likely to end in the Senate, some Democrats have already stated that it won’t stop their work to remove a duly-elected President. It’s yet another signal that the intent has always been political. I regret that these actions have further divided our nation and blocked progress on issues that contribute to the strength of Arkansas and America. I truly hope that we can move forward, remember the many things that unite us, and get back to bridging the gap on the numerous challenges facing our nation.”
Celeste Williams, who is running as a Democrat against Womack in Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District, provided this statement to Talk Business & Politics: “Today I grieve for our country; I find no joy in this vote. As a public servant, one must make hard choices, but the choice between blind partisanship and defending our democracy and constitution is clear. I believe using the power of the Presidency for one’s own personal gain – and trying to cover that up – is an impeachable offense. No one is above the law.”
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, also voted against the articles of impeachment.
“I believe that reasonable people can disagree. In my view, Speaker Pelosi should have directed the House Foreign Affairs Committee to conduct vigorous oversight hearings on the Trump Administration’s foreign policy towards Ukraine. This would have been the better course of action to explore partisan policy disagreements as well as those voiced by career State Department officials,” Hill noted in a statement.
Arkansas Sen. Joyce Elliot, D-Little Rock, who is challenging Hill in the 2nd Congressional District, issued this statement: “I have always firmly believed that no matter how popular or unpopular a person or an idea is, that the process must be fair. That’s especially true with an issue of this importance. I expect every person in Congress to do their job. I expect them to live up to the oath they swore, to protect our country and to ensure that no one is above the law.”
Following is part of a lengthy statement issued by U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs: “Over and over, House Democrats have proved this is a sham process. It’s been an ever-changing narrative, dictated by primetime ratings and whatever happened to be polling well that day. For these and many other reasons, I voted against the articles of impeachment. This is one of the most serious and divisive tools Congress can use, and every other presidential impeachment had bipartisan support throughout. In this case, the only bipartisan votes have been cast against impeachment proceedings.
His Democratic challenger, William Hanson, said, “Today, I believe, the Framers of the Constitution would be gratified to see the House of Representatives exercise their constitutional duty in voting to impeach President Trump. Anyone who listened to the evidence and who is intellectually honest knows that President Trump committed the offenses for which he is being impeached. I am profoundly disappointed in the failure of our congressional delegation to hold the President accountable for his abuse of office and the public trust. In their failure, they have aided and abetted the President’s criminal conduct should also be held to account for their actions.”
The Democratic Party of Arkansas praised the two House votes on impeachment.
“The U.S. House of Representatives found evidence to move forward with an indictment of President Trump, with a trial to follow in the U.S. Senate. Any partisan labels aside, failure to follow the U.S. Constitution is an indictable offense that merits a public hearing, as well as a right to a trial in the Senate,” said party Chairman Michael John Gray. “If there has been any form of abuse of power or obstruction it is a direct violation of the Constitution and must be addressed.”
The impeachment process now moves to the trial phase in the U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said – through spokesman Patrick Creamer – he does not believe the case outlined by House Democrats rises to the level of impeachment.
“Senator Boozman takes his responsibilities as a juror very seriously as this moves forward to a Senate trial,” Creamer told Talk Business & Politics. “However, he does not believe that anything he has seen so far rises to the level of an impeachable offense. He remains skeptical that the articles of impeachment considered by the House merit removal given House Democrats’ intentions and the unconvincing public case they have made so far.”