Gathered in the Capitol just one week after it came under violent attack by a pro-Trump mob, the House opened an emotional debate on Wednesday over whether to impeach President Trump for his role in inciting the violence.
The vote was expected in the afternoon and Democrats confidently predicted they had the votes to impeach, with nearly every one of their members speaking out in support and several Republicans pledging to join them.
But in the run-up to the vote, the two parties traded bitter jabs and dueling arguments for and against using the Constitution’s gravest remedy just days before Mr. Trump was to leave office. Democrats uniformly described the president’s conduct in scathing terms, arguing that impeachment was an appropriate remedy. A few Republicans defended him, but most others simply argued that a rush to impeach Mr. Trump without a hearing or an investigation raised constitutional questions.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California: “The president must be impeached and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together. It gives me no pleasure to say this. It breaks my heart.”
Representative Jaime Raskin of Maryland, the lead impeachment manager: “It’s a bit much to be hearing that these people would not be trying to destroy our government and kill us if we just weren’t so mean to them.”
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California: “America has been through a civil war, world wars, a Great Depression, pandemics, McCarthyism, and now a Trumpist and white nationalist insurrection. And yet our democracy endures.
“It endures because at every juncture, every pivotal moment, when evil threatens to overtake good, patriotic Americans step forward to say, enough. This is one of those moments.”
Representative Hakeem Jeffires of New York: “Donald Trump is a living, breathing impeachable offense. It is what it is.”
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader: “I’ve served with Ronald Reagan, with George H.W. Bush and George Bush. I have respect for all of those presidents. They cared about our country. They honored our Constitution and they executed the duties of the office consistent with the constitution and laws of our country.
“That is not true of this president. And therefore, he ought to be removed. And we have that opportunity to do so. Is there little time left? Yes. But it is never too late to do the right thing.”
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota: “For years we have been asked to turn a blind eye to the criminality, corruption and blatant disregard to the rule of law by the tyrant president we have in the White House. We as a nation can no longer look away.”
Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, a Democrat leaving to join the Biden White House: “Simply put, we told you so.”
Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas: “Let me ask you a question. What do you think they would have done if they had gotten in? What do you think they would have done to you? And who do you think sent them here?”
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio: “It’s always been about getting the president, no matter what. It’s an obsession, an obsession that has now broadened. It’s not just about impeachment anymore, it’s about canceling, as I’ve said. Canceling the president and anyone that disagrees with them.”
Representative Tom McClintock of California: “If we impeached every politician who gave a fiery speech to a crowd of partisans, this Capitol would be deserted. That’s what the president did, that is all he did.
“He specifically told the crowd to protest peacefully and patriotically. And the vast majority of them did. But every movement has a lunatic fringe.”
Representative Dan Newhouse of Washington State: “The president took an oath to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Last week there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol and he did nothing to stop it. That is why with a heavy heart and clear resolve I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”
Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida: “I denounce political violence from all ends of the spectrum, but make no mistake, the left in America has incited far more political violence than the right. For months, our cities burned, police stations burned, our businesses were shattered, and they said nothing. Or they cheer-led for it and fund-raised for it and they allowed it to happen in the greatest country in the world.
“Now some have cited the metaphor that the president lit the flame. Well, they lit actual flames. Actual fires.”
Representative Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania: Mr. Reschenthaler condemned the violence that had taken place, but was one of the few Republicans opposing the impeachment charge on its merits, disputing that Mr. Trump had incited violence.
“At his rally, President Trump urged attendees to, ‘peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.’ There was no mention of violence, let alone calls to action.”
Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina: “The U.S. House of Representatives has every right to impeach the president of the United States. But what we’re doing today, rushing this impeachment in an hour- or two-hour-long debate on the floor of this chamber, bypassing Judiciary, poses great questions about the constitutionality of this process.”
Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State, who supports impeachment: “I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid my country will fail.”