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Politics & Policy

Of Course Last Night’s Impeachments Had the Most ‘Yes’ Votes in History

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wields the gavel as she presides over the House of Representatives approving two counts of impeachmeant against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, December 18, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Jonathan Allen tweets: “Unprecedented: Trump now holds the record for most votes ever acquired on an article of impeachment at 230. He’s also No. 2 at 229.” I guess the implication is that this makes Trump’s impeachment somehow worse, or more justified, or more popular than other impeachment votes.

But this figure reveals less than it may initially appear. In 1868, during the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the House of Representatives had a lot fewer members than now, with only 226. The impeachment of Johnson passed 126–47, with 17 members not voting. Even if the House had been unanimous back then, it would not have surpassed the vote last night.

Richard Nixon resigned before the House voted on three articles of impeachment for him. Seven Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had voted in support of at least one article of impeachment. The Democrats had 242 seats at the start of that Congress. Had the House voted on those articles, it is likely they would have had more than 230 votes in support.

And there were four articles of impeachment brought to the House floor against Bill Clinton in 1998. The article of impeachment about perjury had 228 votes. Five House Republicans crossed party lines to vote “no,” five House Democrats crossed party lines to vote “yes.”

Right now there are 233 House Democrats, 197 House Republicans, one Republican-turned-independent (Justin Amash), and four vacancies created by the resignation of Republicans Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and Chris Collins of New York and Democrat Katie Hill of California and the death of Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings. Also note that three representatives missed the vote: Republican representatives John Shimkus of Illinois and Duncan Hunter of California and Democratic representative Jose Serrano of New York. The only one of the three likely to support impeachment, Serrano, missed the vote because of health issues.

Last night’s impeachment passed with the most votes in history because today’s Democrats have a slightly larger majority in the House than the GOP had in 1998. The difference in party unity is marginal. Back then, 97.8 percent of Republicans voted to impeach Clinton on the article with the most votes; last night 98.2 percent of Democrats voted to impeach Trump on the article with the most votes.

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