If this is the kind of “unity” Democrats have in mind for the next few years, American democracy might not survive it.
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s incursion into the Capitol by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump, Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate are seeking the most extreme punishment available against Republican colleagues who had nothing to do with the violence.
And it should be a warning of what’s ahead.
In the Senate, according to Fox News, Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse issued a statement Monday calling for Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to be punished for their well-publicized objections to Electoral College votes that made Joe Biden the president-elect of the United States.
Besides Cruz and Hawley, he also cited Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
That would have consequences for each of them: Johnson chairs Homeland Security, Cruz is on Judiciary, Hawley is on both.
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) January 11, 2021
“The Senate will need to conduct security review of what happened and what went wrong, likely through the Rules, Homeland and Judiciary Committees. The Senate Ethics Committee also must consider the expulsion, or censure and punishment, of Senators Cruz, Hawley and perhaps others,” Whitehouse said.
“Because Congress has protections from the Department of Justice under separation of powers, specifically the Speech and Debate Clause, significant investigation will need to be done in the Senate. Because of massive potential conflict of interest, Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Johnson (at least) need to be put off all relevant committees reviewing this matter until the investigation of their role is complete.”
Those committee listings aren’t accidental. Johnson is the former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee who will likely become the ranking Republican once committees are chosen in the new Democratic-controlled Senate.
Cruz is on the Judiciary Committee, and Hawley is a member of both, as Forbes political reporter Andrew Solender pointed out in a Twitter post.
According to Fox, Democratic senators who have called for Cruz and Hawley to resign include Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Patty Murray of Washington, and Chris Coons of Delaware.
In the House, newly elected Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri announced a resolution “which would initiate investigations for removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”
She wrote Monday on Twitter that 47 of her colleagues had co-sponsored the resolution.
I just introduced H.Res. 25, which would initiate investigations for removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.
Grateful for the 47 of my colleagues who have co-sponsored this legislation. pic.twitter.com/yuxjHDZfW6
— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@RepCori) January 11, 2021
Meanwhile, Fox News’ Chad Pergram published a Twitter post late Sunday reporting that Democrats were preparing censure resolutions — a less-severe form of punishment than expulsion — against Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Louie Gohmert of Texas.
“Senior Democratic lawmakers tell Fox to expect a censure resolution in the House in the coming days for Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Mo Brooks (R-AL). Fox is told there could also be consequences for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL),” Pergram wrote.
2) No resolution of prospective discipline has yet been shared with Fox. Nor is Fox aware of what the specific grievances would be if the House were to consider sanctions for these members.
The House has three formal modes of discipline: reprimand, censure and expulsion.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 10, 2021
This is from a political party whose titular leader, President-elect Joe Biden, has made a great show of calling for “unity” after the most divisive presidential election in modern memory. (Biden is making the U-word a theme of his inauguration, according to The Associated Press.)
Note that the Bush- and Whitehead-led efforts aren’t simply calling for expressions of displeasure with the Republicans in question, or even censure — a rare form of punishment. They are expressly discussing removal from Congress of elected members for a literal difference of political opinion.
Regardless of what took place during the inexcusable events in the Capitol on Wednesday, Republican members of the House and Senate were not involved in the violence.
Did they intend to object to the certification of the Electoral College results? Yes. But that wasn’t a broadcast plea to supporters to storm the Capitol.
Did they continue their objections after the violence? Some Republicans backed down, but, as The New York Times reported (disapprovingly), 147 Republicans, including eight senators, joined objections to results from Arizona, Pennsylvania or both.
While the Senate number might not look large in the 100-member body, it makes up nearly a quarter of Republicans. In the House, those 139 votes represent more than 60 percent of the 211 Republicans holding seats.
In short, while Whitehouse’s statement called out three particularly prominent senators for questioning whether the 2020 presidential election was stolen through election night hijinks, and while Pergram’s report singled out three prominent House members for doing the same, what is really happening is an attack a substantial segment of what is now the opposition party by the party in power.
Clearly, the Democratic statements are rhetorical. It takes a two-thirds vote of members of the House and Senate to expel a fellow member, and given how close the bodies are divided by party, it’s not going to happen.
But that doesn’t change the fact that majority lawmakers are using their power — only days old — to try to unseat opponents whose only crime is questioning whether almost 75 million Americans who voted for Trump had been robbed of their rights by crooked Democratic machines in cities and states with a well-earned reputation for political corruption.
If that’s “unity,” it’s the kind of “unity” that can be found in the most repressive regimes on earth, the world’s oldest democratic republic. It’s the kind of “unity” that turns up in dictatorships, whether in the tin-pot Third World or in the emerging behemoth of communist China.
It isn’t unity at all, but coerced compliance. And these are very early days.
If it’s what Democrats have in store for the country for at least the next two years, American democracy is in trouble.
But maybe that’s the Democrats’ idea.
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