Rep. Sensenbrenner’s Disappointing Column
The Republican has showed his independence in the past. But not this time, not on impeachment.
On December 21 of this year, the New York Times published a column from Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner attacking the recently passed articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Rather than address the substance of the articles, the column consists largely of complaints about the lack of Republican support for the articles and about the process that produced them.
This is disappointing. Sensenbrenner occasionally showed flashes of independence during his 42 years in the House. Recently, for example, he was one of only 4 Republicans voting for HR 986, the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act, opposing the Trump administration’s attempt to allow health policies that discriminate against people with preexisting medical conditions. Unfortunately, his column shows none of that independence.
Sensenbrenner complains about the lack of Republican support for impeachment. In part, this reflects the partisan realignment of Congress that started well before Trump took office. It also reflects Trump’s viciousness towards any Republican that defies him. To quote a recent article by the Times’ Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman: “To defy Mr. Trump is to invite the president’s wrath, ostracism within the party and a premature end to a career in Republican politics.”
It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that he limited himself to repeating Republican talking points, like “President Trump has been robbed of his constitutionally protected due process rights,” without ever specifying what rights Trump was robbed of or where they are mentioned in the Constitution. The Constitution itself mentions impeachment twice. The first comes in Article I Section 2: “The House of Representatives shall … have the sole Power of Impeachment.”
Later, Sensenbrenner returns to the same theme: “The closed-door hearings led to a railroad job in the House Judiciary Committee, where a majority denied those of us in the minority our rights.” Again, the reader is left to guess what those rights were. The closest he comes is to point to the Clinton impeachment as the model for the right way to handle impeachment. However, Clinton’s impeachment was the culmination of the seemingly endless investigation by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Sensenbrenner claims that the obstruction of Congress charge is “particularly bad” because “Democrats failed even to give a court — the proper arbiter of these disagreements — the chance to weigh in on the matter.” Yet, Sensenbrenner’s attempt to give the judiciary co-responsibility for impeachment runs up against the Supreme Court’s decision in Nixon v. United States, which makes clear the court has no role to play.
Sensenbrenner’s attempt to address the substance of the impeachment articles consists largely of the following assertion: “When we finally considered the articles of impeachment, they were so broad and flimsy that almost any other president could most likely have been accused of them.” Contrary to this assertion, the actual articles offer specific details.
Going back through American history, it seems very unlikely that any previous president has done anything similar to Trump’s actions. Who among them pressured another nation for election help in exchange for US government support? Sensenbrenner doesn’t say.
The fact that Sensenbrenner attacks the process that led to the conclusions rather than substance of the conclusions suggests that he is unable or unwilling to defend Trump’s actions—that in Trump-speak they are “perfect.” In this he joins most of his Republican colleagues, who are very happy to point out supposed failures of process but become very quiet when it comes to Trump’s actions.
- Op Ed: The Courage of Mitt Romney - Bill Kaplan - Feb 10th, 2020
- In Trump Acquittal, Wisconsin Legislators Divided - Robin Bravender and Ruth Conniff - Feb 6th, 2020
- Pocan: ‘A Cover-Up That Will Haunt our Democracy’ - U.S. Rep Mark Pocan - Feb 5th, 2020
- Johnson Statement On Acquittal Votes - U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson - Feb 5th, 2020
- Johnson Votes to Conclude Impeachment Proceedings - U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson - Feb 3rd, 2020
- Call Bolton to Testify, Baldwin Urges - Erik Gunn - Jan 29th, 2020
- “Gut Check Time” For Senators, Baldwin Says - Shawn Johnson - Jan 28th, 2020
- Data Wonk: Measuring Republican Views on Impeachment - Bruce Thompson - Jan 2nd, 2020
- Data Wonk: Rep. Sensenbrenner’s Disappointing Column - Bruce Thompson - Dec 26th, 2019
- Pocan: ‘A Vote That Sets the Precedent for All Future Presidents’ - U.S. Rep Mark Pocan - Dec 18th, 2019
Read more about Impeachment of President Trump here