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Can The House Impeach Without The Senate? They Can’t Do The Most Important Thing
On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the House of Representatives officially impeached President Donald Trump. But Trump’s impeachment raised just as many questions as it answered, especially because the Constitution doesn’t say all that much about the process. With the end of the year approaching, House Democrats have indicated they’re thinking about withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate until GOP senators can guarantee a fair impeachment trial. But can the House impeach a president without the Senate’s help? Their powers are limited.
Both chambers of Congress have a certain role to play in the impeachment process. According to the Constitution, the House of Representatives has the power to impeach a president, but only the Senate can remove a president from office. Technically, this means the House can impeach a president without the Senate’s approval — but they can’t go any further than that.
So what does that mean in Trump’s case? As of right now, it looks like a state of limbo. On Dec. 18, the House voted to impeach Trump on two counts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The White House did not respond to Elite Daily’s request for comment on the vote, although President Trump has dismissed the impeachment proceedings as “invalid.” Normally, the next step in the impeachment process would be for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to transmit these two articles of impeachment to the Senate. The Senate would then be responsible for organizing an impeachment trial, over which Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts would preside. But after Wednesday’s impeachment vote, Pelosi said she was considering a delay in transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She expressed concern that Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were not committed to a fair trial, and she said the House could not name managers to prosecute the trial until they could be sure of the Senate’s conduct.
Trump’s impeachment may therefore pose important questions about the Constitution and the nature of the impeachment process. For now, however, House Democrats have not indicated that they will withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate indefinitely. Instead, they are putting pressure on McConnell and his fellow GOP senators to organize a fair trial. In recent days, McConnell has rejected Democratic calls for key witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Bolton and Mulvaney both declined to testify during the House’s impeachment inquiry, per CNN, but McConnell refused to bring them on as witnesses during a Senate impeachment trial, suggesting that the House’s investigations were “deficient.” In remarks shared with Elite Daily on Dec. 19, McConnell suggested the delay in sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate was due to Democrats’ “cold feet.”
Given McConnell’s position, it remains to be seen whether withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate actually gives Democrats any leverage in the organization of Trump’s impeachment trial. But for now, what’s clear is the House has indeed voted to impeach Trump, and history will take note of this impeachment whether or not the Senate votes to remove him from office in the new year.
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