The US House of Representatives approved a resolution on Tuesday calling on the vice-president Mike Pence and cabinet members to wrest power from Donald Trump over his incitement and handling of the deadly storming of the Capitol last week by his supporters.
The resolution, which is not binding, passed by a 223-to-205 majority, with a sole Republican breaking ranks to support the motion. Five Republicans did not cast votes.
The Republicans’ sole dissenting vote came from Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an outspoken Trump critic who has called on the president to resign and signalled over the weekend he would “vote the right way” if given the option to impeach.
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By the time the vote was conducted late on Tuesday, however, the motion had become entirely symbolic, following an announcement earlier in the evening from Pence that he would not agree to the Democrats’ request.
The resolution cites the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which authorises the vice-president to seize power if the US leader is deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of his or her office, provided that most cabinet members approve.
The resolution cited Trump’s remarks at a rally just before his supporters breached the Capitol last Wednesday, including his calls for them to “fight like hell”.
In the wake of the attack, which resulted in five deaths, Trump told those who had stormed the Capitol they were “very special”, and said: “These are the things and events that happen” when elections are stolen, reiterating a baseless conspiracy theory that Biden won in November because of coordinated voter fraud.
Tuesday’s resolution also cited efforts by Trump to overturn the results of the election, including a call to Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, demanding he “find 11,780 votes” and threatening a “big risk” if he did not comply.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, Pence did not defend Trump’s actions but said that invoking the 25th Amendment was not “in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our constitution” and would set a “terrible precedent”.
“I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment,” he said.
The past week has seen an extraordinary rift form between Trump and Pence, over the vice-president’s refusal to flout his constitutional obligations and thwart Congress’ ratification of the presidential election.
Some of those who were incited to storm the Capitol on Wednesday were heard shouting “hang Mike Pence”.
During a House debate on Tuesday, Republicans warned against Congressional overreach and argued that, if Democrats trusted Pence to assume the office of the president, they should logically also trust his judgment in whether to invoke the 25th Amendment.
“Vice-President Pence’s judgment is sound,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma. “There’s no need for the House to attempt to substitute its judgment for his own.”
Ohio’s Jim Jordan, a bellicose defender of Trump in the House, decried the “cancel culture mob” and called Democrats’ efforts “dangerous”, without mention of last week’s fatal attack on the Capitol.
Yet even as some Republicans sought to protect Trump from efforts to unseat him, others in the party stepped forward on Tuesday to publicly support impeachment, which House Democrats have vowed to pursue should Pence fail to invoke the 25th Amendment.
Representative John Katko of New York, became the first Republican to explicitly express support for impeachment on Tuesday, saying in a statement: “To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy.”
Katko was soon joined by Wisconsin’s Liz Cheney, the No 3 Republican in the House, who blasted Trump for having “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement announcing her intent to support impeachment.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the White House anticipates two dozen Republican lawmakers joining Democrats in voting to approve the impeachment article, proceedings that are expected to take place on Wednesday.
No Republican House member broke party ranks during Trump’s first impeachment in December 2019. The Republican-controlled Senate voted to clear the president of the two charges against him, related to pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden, in February 2020.
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