An apocryphal story has George Washington explaining to Thomas Jefferson that a bicameral Congress is the superior model because the Senate will be the “saucer” where the “hot tea” from the more politically tempestuous House of Representatives can “cool.” Although saucers have largely gone the way of knee breaches and powdered wigs, the analogy fits the current impeachment process that Congress is considering.
Despite criticism that it moved too fast, the House did the right thing in acting quickly to consider and pass an article of impeachment charging former President Donald Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in the 232 to 197 vote. Just days earlier, all of those voting experienced the insurrection firsthand — from under their desks or from safe locations where they were sheltered — as people died nearby.
This is the hot tea of impeachment that the House will hand to the Senate. The fact that the Senate will not take up the charge against Trump until after he is out of office is better than if the trial had been hurried. Emotions will have cooled. Additional time will enable senators to consider things more thoughtfully, with a clear understanding of Trump’s actions, their implications and the need for possible punishment.
We are troubled by the concern for the safety of Republican legislators who opposed Trump’s contentions of election fraud and conspiracy, and voted for his impeachment. There is no place in our democracy for such intimidation, and it must be addressed. With their orchestrated attack, malevolent messaging, displayed weaponry and execution scaffolding, the white supremacists who attacked the Capitol are a clear danger. And it is troubling that law enforcement appears to have been slow to recognize the full threat of right-wing terrorism.
We call upon any Republicans who were afraid to vote for impeachment because they feared for their families’ safety to come forward. And we join conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, who wrote in The Washington Post: “If these complaints about fear are legitimate, lawmakers committed a gross dereliction of duty by not coming forward with the information and by casting votes contrary to their oaths. And if they really were cowed into voting with the mob, they should consider leaving public life.”
There must be a full accounting for the attempted coup and Trump’s role in it. This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, and Congress has the responsibility to address it fully. Many worry that President Biden, with significant issues already on his plate, shouldn’t be distracted by the past, and needs Congress fully focused on his healing agenda. We disagree. While we want the new president to hit the ground running, the Senate should be able to conduct all of its legislative duties even as it fulfills its constitutional responsibility to conduct an impeachment trial. If they’re not up to the job, they should resign. JN