The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
As you tune into any news outlet — whether it be online, on television or in print — one story prevails : the possible impeachment of President Trump. Though one can find numerous articles and dialogues incorporating myriad viewpoints related to allegations, two aspects are missing. First, a direct description of the impeachment process. Second, an explanation of just how unlikely it is for Trump to be impeached, convicted and removed from office. This article aims to ameliorate those two issues. Firstly by providing a straightforward description of the impeachment process. Secondly by demonstrating exactly how difficult it would be to impeach and then convict Trump.
Americans must understand that “impeachment” of a president is comparable to a trial. It is not the simple removal of a person from office. It is a long process that has three major steps. The first step is for any member of the House of Representatives to introduce a resolution of impeachment. Following deliberation and debate, the second step is a vote by the representatives on whether or not to pass the resolution. A simple majority (51%) is needed to send the impeachment resolution to trial.
Since the House of Representatives is currently controlled by the Democrats, it is highly conceivable that if the charges against Trump are sustained, the House of Representatives would pass the resolution if the votes are by party lines. Of the 435 members, the House contains 235 Democrats, 198 Republicans, 1 Independent, and 1 vacancy (until Jan.27, 2020, when the citizens of Wisconsin’s 7th District will pick Sean Duffy’s replacement).
To obtain a simple majority, at least 222 of the 435 house members would have to vote in favor of a resolution to impeachment. Nevertheless, even if Trump is sent to the next stage of impeachment, it will be almost impossible to remove him from office.
If the House votes in favor of impeachment, the case is then sent to the Senate which is the third and final step in the impeachment process. According to Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments.” In simple terms, this means that the Senate acts as the jury while the president is on trial. A supermajority of senators (67%) must convict the president of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” to remove him from office.
While the resolution of impeachment may pass the House, it is much more unlikely that the Senate would convict Trump. Currently, the Senate contains 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and 2 Independents. The two Independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, are no fans of Trump. Nevertheless, 67 of the 100 Senators would have to vote in favor of Trump’s conviction. This means that at least 20 Republicans would have to join the Democrats to remove Trump, a seemingly unreachable number even with the whole “Never Trump” movement within the Republican Party.
So, when listening to the news, please keep two things in mind. First, impeachment is a process, not a simple removal from office. A resolution of impeachment must be passed by a simple majority in the House of Representatives before it is sent to the Senate. If the resolution reaches the Senate, a supermajority vote is needed for conviction and removal. If the members of the House vote along party lines, it is likely the resolution will be sent to the Senate for trial. However, it is very improbable that a Republican-controlled Senate will have 67 members vote to convict and remove the president from office.