This article appeared in the November 01, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Impeachment today – and 20 years ago

Andrew Harnik/AP
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California gavels as the House votes 232-196 to pass resolution on impeachment procedure to move forward into the next phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 31, 2019.

Welcome to your Daily. Today’s offerings explore the role of identity in California politics, an effort to bring transparency to a failing school district, the religious source of one woman’s acts of charity, an homage to the real-life heroine Harriet Tubman, and the network of volunteers who help animals find refuge amid disaster.

But first, in 1998 Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin voted to begin a House impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton. Last Thursday he did it again. Congressman Kind, a Democrat, voted to begin a House impeachment inquiry looking into the actions of President Donald Trump.

There are 56 lawmakers now in the House who were in office in 1998, but Representative Kind is the only one who voted to begin both historic impeachment proceedings.

The 1998 vote was, if not fully bipartisan, somewhat mixed. Thirty-one Democrats voted to begin the Clinton inquiry. Many were from conservative southern districts. Some considered the vote more procedural than partisan. 

Today the atmosphere in Congress is much more fiercely partisan. Only two Democrats voted “no” in the President Trump impeachment inquiry vote on Thursday. Only one conservative – Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan – voted “yes.” And he’s an ex-Republican, having quit the party because he believes its continued defense of President Trump is wrong.

The 2019 vote carries symbolic weight in a way the 1998 one didn’t. Republicans won’t abandon the president, in part because they don’t want to face angry Trump voters themselves. Meanwhile, some Democrats have been talking about a Trump impeachment since 2016.

In 1998 Representative Kind voted against President Clinton’s impeachment. He says today impeachment should be a last resort. But he knows the House’s atmosphere now is fraught.

“Yeah, the political environment has changed a little bit, hasn’t it?” he told The Washington Post this week.

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This article appeared in the November 01, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 11/01 edition