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Missouri’s Congressional Delegation Splits Along Party Lines On Impeaching President Trump

President Donald Trump speaks at a Granite City Works warehouse on July 26, 2018.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
President Donald Trump became the third president ever impeached on Wednesday.

Missouri’s congressional delegation was divided Wednesday on the historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

It’s only the third time in American history that members of the House impeached a president. But it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will remove Trump from office.

The House voted Wednesday night to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. He’s accused, among other things, of holding up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an announcement of an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Both of Missouri’s Democratic congressmen, Lacy Clay of St. Louis and Emanuel Cleaver, of Kansas City, voted for Trump’s impeachment. In a speech on the House floor, Clay said Trump must be held accountable for “his repeated abuse of power.”

“Our founders feared a lawless, amoral president would willfully put national security at risk for his own personal gain,” Clay said. “My friends on both sides of the aisle can either defend him or defend the Constitution. History will not permit you to do both.”

In a statement issued last week, Cleaver said he was “extremely reluctant to agree to support an impeachment inquiry into the President.” But he went on to say that “as is the case in all of life, the most painful thing is oftimes the most principled thing.”

"My votes to support the articles of impeachment were not based out of hate for the President, but rather out of love for this country and the values imbued in our constitution," Cleaver said in a statement after the Wednesday vote. "Sadly, the President perverted the powers granted to him by the constitution in an effort to coerce a foreign government into interfering in our sacred elections."

GOP members of the Missouri delegation — Ann Wagner, Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Billy Long and Jason Smith — all voted against impeachment.

Most of these members of Congress have been panning the impeachment proceedings for months. Smith, of Salem, said in a statement on Tuesday that “the Left grasped at straws to even get this much.” 

“Your frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me,” Smith said during a speech on the House floor. “I’m from the Show-Me State. You have to show me. The only thing you all have shown so far is you’re about to impeach a duly elected president who has done nothing wrong.”

Hartzler, of Harrisonville, called impeachment a “circus” and added “it's time to move on from this charade and get back to the people's work.” And Luetkemeyer said during a floor speech that Democrats arrived at “Stalinistic, predetermined conclusions.”

“I rise today in strong opposition to this political charade that has tormented our country for nearly three years,” said Luetkemeyer, of St. Elizabeth.

In a statement released after the vote, Wagner, of Ballwin, said the impeachment articles "do not come close to the constitutional standards of treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors."

"Our Republic relies on robust political disagreements, but political disagreements are not cause for impeachment of a duly elected President. Democrats were outraged when President Trump was elected, and many immediately declared their intention to impeach him," Wagner said. "Well, I am outraged by the behavior I have witnessed during these proceedings. This is a crime-less impeachment and today we saw Democrats vote to undermine the results of an election without a single Republican joining them."

Illinois congressmen representing the Metro East also voted along party lines Wednesday. Republican Congressmen Mike Bost and Rodney Davis voted against impeachment. Congressman John Shimkus did not vote but expressed opposition to the move.

Clay reflects on historic vote

Congressman Lacy Clay speaks with reporters at the Forward Together bus tour kickoff event outside the Missouri History Museum earlier in October.
Credit File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay was one of two Missouri Democrats who voted in favor of impeaching Trump on Wednesday.

In an interview right before the vote, Clay noted that he was an intern in the U.S. House in 1974 — and vividly recalls how that chamber went through impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon. He noted that Republicans at that time “made it clear that their ultimate loyalty was not to one man — but to uphold the Constitution.” 

“To be here today, it’s quite a sad moment for this country. Because nobody comes to Congress to impeach a president,” Clay said. “But we have a duty. We took an oath to uphold the laws of this country and to honor the Constitution of the United States.”

Clay said that he recognized the historical nature of the vote, as it means that Trump is only one of three presidents ever impeached. Nixon resigned before the House voted on the matter.

“My children’s children will read about this and say, ‘Hey, at least the U.S. House of Representatives held this president accountable and sent a clear message to this country that no one is above the law,’” Clay said.

Democrats hold a majority in the U.S. House. But actually removing Trump from office will be much more difficult in the GOP-controlled Senate; 67 senators would need to vote in favor of such a move.

Speaking to reporters last Friday in Wentzville, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said it was unlikely that enough of his GOP colleagues would vote to remove Trump.

“A partisan determination to impeach by the House will almost certainly lead to a largely partisan vote in the Senate, which means that you wouldn't have the votes you need to get this done,” Blunt said.

Blunt went onto say that if the impeachment push “doesn't produce a result that the president would be removed from office, and it appears it won’t,” then it’s worth asking why the House took “all the time to do this.” 

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has been even more outspoken against the impeachment process, telling Fox News earlier this week that “there's no way I’m voting for impeachment for someone who has not committed any impeachable offenses."

Clay said that he spoke with Blunt on the House floor on Wednesday. He said Blunt, who was in the House during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, came to the chamber to get a sense of how House members were reacting to impeachment proceedings. Clay stressed he didn’t talk with Blunt about his feelings about the upcoming trial.

He went on to say that “the House cannot be motivated by what may or may not happen in the Senate.”

“We have a constitutional responsibility to uphold our oath of office and uphold the laws of this country and to hold this president accountable,” Clay said. “And so we cannot be motivated by what happens next once it leaves the House. I feel like that should not guide us, and I don’t think it is.”

St. Louis Public Radio's Corinne Ruff contributed information to this story.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.