A Frightening Welcome to the 117th Congress: Impeachment 2.0
By Craig Papajohn-Shaw
Volume 1 Issue 4
January 20, 2021
Image provided by CNN Politics
January 6, 2021, 2:07 PM: a moment that history will never forget, when domestic terrorists ransacked the Capitol while congressional leaders were meeting to certify the election for Joseph R. Biden (D-DE). High ranking officials on the floor feared for their lives.
The office of Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY), who represents the students and parents within the Valley Stream Central High School District, responded to my request for a statement; the Congresswoman expressed “For those of us who were in the Capitol that day, this attack will haunt us and our families for the rest of our lives. For every American, it will leave a permanent stain on the great history of our democracy.” The Congresswoman’s statement emphasizes the heinous acts that were committed on the Capitol that horrid day. The 117th Congress was sworn in on January 3rd, having a new perspective on what can happen when democracy is threatened. They would start their term by voting for the Speaker of the House.
In the House of Representatives, a slim 222 majority for the Democrats still allowed the party to re-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for Speaker of the House. The leader of the most diverse and dynamically female-led House in history, Pelosi was still blamed by some Democrats for the loss of 10 seats in her party and Republicans gaining 15. Many progressives were dubious about voting for the Speaker but did not want to further voice the divide within the Democratic Party. Speaker Pelosi urged representatives to come together stating, “our promise to [our constituents] will [be to] continue to work in a bipartisan way to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.” Even with Pelosi’s promising speech, problems arose on the first day of order in the 117th House of Representatives. A screaming match, as Business Insider described it, occurred within the chamber because of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) refusal to wear a mask properly. A freshman politician, Representative Greene is seen in many pictures throughout the historic day without a mask. Furthermore, she was one of 121 GOP lawmakers who supported the objection to the presidential election on January 6th.
A staunch supporter of President Trump, wearing a mask reading “Trump Won,” Greene has been in strong opposition to the Democratic caucus’ impeachment of the President for a second time, and many of her Republican colleagues also voiced their disapproval of the Democrats’ impeachment efforts. Pelosi brought impeachment papers to the floor on January 11th, citing that Trump encouraged the mob of his supporters to attack the Capitol. The charge, incitement of insurrection (inciting violence against the government against the United States), was agreed upon in the House by a vote of 232-197 on January 13th, with 10 Republicans breaking party lines. Led by the 3rd highest ranking Republican in the house, Liz Cheney (R-WY) voted for the impeachment of Donald Trump stating, “[he]summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.” Cheney and her nine Republican colleagues who voted for impeachment have been called on to resign by constituents and other GOP representatives alike. However, a spokesperson for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), rejected the idea stating, “[The Minority Leader] does not support efforts to remove her as conference chair. The agreed resolution will now go to Senate where an impeachment trial will take place.”
The 117th United States Senate will be under new leadership. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) will now be titled as Senate Minority Leader. The two Senate runoffs in Georgia which occurred on January 5th decided the fate of the Senate. For the Democrats to obtain the majority, both Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) needed to win their elections. Both defeated their opponents by over a 0.5% margin, so no automatic recount will occur per Georgia’s state election rules. A concession speech from GOP incumbent David Perdue (R-GA) read, “Although we won the general election, we came up just short of Georgia’s 50% rule, and now I want to congratulate the Democratic Party and my opponent for this runoff win.” In defiance of President Trump’s claim of voter fraud once again, both GOP senators from Georgia gracefully accepted defeat.
With 50 Democratic senators and 50 Republican senators, the president of the senate, who is the vice president, breaks the tie to hold the majority. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA) would hold this position, therefore presumptively making current minority leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the majority leader. With regards to an impeachment trial, Mitch McConnell, who will still be majority leader until the election for the Georgia runoff is certified in mid-January, has stated that due to scheduling, a trial can occur no earlier than January 19th. As a majority leader, an emergency session can be called prior to this date under his leadership; however, he will refuse to do so. A president may be impeached after they have left office. President Trump being impeached in the House would make him the only president in American History to be impeached twice. In the Senate, a two-thirds majority is necessary to find the President guilty, and while some GOP Senators, such as Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), have vowed to charge the president as guilty, it is unlikely that 17 Republican senators will follow suit with their Republican colleagues.
The 117th Congress will have to make complex decisions within the first few weeks of office. With both the legislative and executive branch controlled by the Democrats, an ambitious agenda by the Biden administration will be easier to accomplish with a majority in both chambers of Congress. The new leadership will make a priority of overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and helping their constituents, some of whom are in dire need of financial and public health support.