The Corner

White House

Rep. Gallagher vs. Impeachment

President Donald Trump departs on travel to West Point, N.Y., from the South Lawn at the White House, December 12, 2020. (Cheriss May/Reuters)

Representative Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) has been willing to take tough stands at odds with President Trump in the past: He voted against the emergency declaration that Trump used to get around Congress to do a bit more building of a southern border wall. He didn’t join the challenge to electors or the lawsuit urging the Supreme Court to overturn the election. But he voted against impeachment, and he took the time to explain his thinking.

To his credit, his arguments are not based on ignoring or excusing Trump’s disgraceful conduct since the election. Instead he maintains, first, that impeachment is pointless since Senate conviction is highly unlikely and that a censure would be preferable. These seem like better arguments against having the House take up impeachment in the first place than for voting no. If you think that Trump’s removal is warranted, then it shouldn’t matter that Nancy Pelosi would have been more prudent to push for censure, and it shouldn’t matter that 67 senators are unlikely to agree. Your own agreement should still be registered.

Perhaps in recognition of that gap in his argument, Gallagher goes on to suggest that it would be bad for the country if Trump were to be convicted. In large part that is because it would be done on a partisan basis. But Trump’s impeachment garnered more votes from his own party than any previous impeachment of a president has. (Granted, that’s in part because Richard Nixon resigned before the House voted.) To say it’s still too partisan is effectively to say that the impeachment provisions of the Constitution should be a dead letter. And Gallagher had it in his power to make this impeachment a bit less partisan.

The congressman is right to be worried about “enmity and polarization.” But it would not have made those problems worse for eleven Republicans in the House to vote for impeachment instead of ten.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.