How House Republicans have stayed unified on impeachment

How House Republicans have stayed unified on impeachment
© Aaron Schwartz

House Republicans say they’ve had an easier time getting their members to toe the line against impeachment than on other key issues.

Not a single GOP lawmaker voted for the House resolution last month setting out the impeachment inquiry, which Republicans saw as a significant victory.

Since the House Intelligence Committee began its public hearings last week, Republican lawmakers who have been critical of Trump in the past, such as Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Obama reunite for socially distanced conversation MORE (N.Y.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits Texas Democrats plan 7-figure ad buy to turn state blue Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House MORE (Texas), have taken issue with the way Democrats have handled the process.

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While there have been some difficult moments for Republicans — most notably President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE’s decision to tweet his criticism of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchMarie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Cheney clashes with Trump Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE during her testimony last week, the House GOP has generally been able to rally around the argument that Democrats have not proven Trump committed an impeachable offense. 

And after four days of testimony, it still seems unlikely that any House Republican would vote to back articles of impeachment.

Republican leadership, the House GOP whip team and the administration took early steps to tamp down potential defections and walk members through their arguments.

“We’ve been taking members up to Camp David, we’ve done several trips on that, that’s helped,” one administration official told The Hill. “And then obviously getting people in front of the president, that makes a difference when they get to hear from [him] directly. So, those are the big thing we try to do ahead of it.”

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Top House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony MORE (R-La.) held four member briefings on impeachment that a senior GOP aide said reached nearly the entire conference. Two came before Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-Calif.) announced an impeachment process resolution would come to the floor, and two followed the announcement.

The aide said that helped Republicans have a “united front.”

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The senior aide said leadership worked members before the Halloween vote to prevent defections, but said the early talks helped grease the skids.

“There were of course a few members we were talking to ahead of the vote, but we felt confident we had the factual and procedural arguments on our side and that our members felt the same,” the aide said.

At the meetings, members of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Reform panels relayed as much information as they could from the closed-door hearings with witnesses.

“I spoke with all of them and they were good conversations,” Scalise said.

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler knocks WNBA players for wearing shirts backing Democratic challenger WNBA players wear 'Vote Warnock' shirts in support of Loeffler Democratic challenger Sunday shows preview: White House, Democratic leaders struggle for deal on coronavirus bill MORE (Ga.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the closed-door process and text of the resolution also worked against Democrats and helped the GOP unify.

Collins mentioned an exchange he had with House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) where Collins argued the Trump impeachment proceeding rules have not followed the precedent set by the Nixon and Clinton impeachments. Had Democrats included Republicans in the process and made it more “fair,” Collins said, some of his GOP colleagues may have voted for the resolution.

“So, the way they wrote it helped us out tremendously” in unifying, Collins told The Hill. 

Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Gohmert tests positive; safety fears escalate on Capitol Hill Pelosi to require masks on House floor Rooney becomes first House Republican to use proxy voting system MORE (R-Fla.), who is retiring, hasn’t ruled out voting for articles of impeachment.

But he voted against the earlier resolution, in part because of the rule differences.

“Remember the resolution is a procedural vote, it was about what kind of rules apply,” he told The Hill. “And, you know, the procedure, while more open than it started, is still not the way it was for Clinton or Nixon.”

He suggested his vote on articles of impeachment would hinge on whether Democrats show the president committed a crime, something Republicans say the majority has yet to do.

“You know, I just want to wait and find out,” Rooney said.

Republicans likely had an easier time unifying in part because so many of their moderates were swept out when the party lost its majority in the 2018 midterms. That has left behind a smaller, more conservative caucus.

Still, the moderates who are left, such as Stefanik and Reps. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartAtlanta Wendy's 911 call the night of Rayshard Brooks's death released Tyler Perry offers to pay for funeral of Rayshard Brooks Current, former NHL players form diversity coalition to fight intolerance in hockey MORE (R-Utah) and Michael Turner (R-Ohio), have been at the forefront of Trump’s defense. That’s made it even easier for the party to unify against impeachment.

“You have to trust certain colleagues, Elise Stefanik, she’s not a Trump person,” one GOP member told The Hill. “These are not folks that are like Trump’s Kool Aid donors, these are folks that are legit.”

Republicans also see Democrats as going too far with impeachment, which they say would unseat an elected president less than a year from the next election.

Polls that show the nation is generally divided on impeachment have also bolstered centrists.

Republicans say that given the gravity of the consequences of impeachment, the allegations and case against the president need to be rock solid.

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While a small number of members like Rooney have not completely ruled out the possibility of voting for articles of impeachment, leadership remains confident the party will stick together.

“I think it’d be easier to vote for [launching the] impeachment inquiry than to vote for impeachment,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyBass honored US Communist Party leader in unsurfaced remarks Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol MORE (R-Calif.).

Scott Wong contributed.