The fact that this is the third impeachment proceeding in the past 45 years, and that Trump is the third elected president of the past eight to endure one, undercuts the notion that this impeachment is momentous. However, Jonathan Allen makes a stab at it. He tweets:
Unprecedented: Trump now holds the record for most votes ever acquired on an article of impeachment at 230. He’s also No. 2 at 229.
Right, if we’re only talking about impeachments of presidents. But as Jim Geraghty points out, there’s less to this factoid than meets the eye. Much less.
When Andrew Johnson was impeached, there were fewer than 200 members of the House. His impeachment could not possibly have garnered as many votes as Trump’s did.
The vote to impeach Johnson was 126–47, with 17 members not voting. Thus, that impeachment had much more support than the current one.
Richard Nixon’s impeachment proceeding never came to a vote. Nixon saw that he would be impeached and that many Republicans supported this remedy. Accordingly, he resigned.
In any case, the Democrats controlled around 240 seats. Thus, even without a single Republican vote, Nixon would have been impeached with more than 230 votes.
This leaves only the Clinton impeachment. There, the article of impeachment for the crime of perjury garnered 228 votes. It didn’t gain more only because the Republicans held fewer seats then than the Democrats hold now.
More significant than the raw vote tally in the Clinton case is the fact that five House Democrats voted to impeach the Democratic president. Last night, no Republican voted to impeach the Republican president.
If the impeachment of Trump is historic, it’s because (1) there was zero Republican support for it and (2) there was no allegation that Trump committed a crime. These are historical firsts.
In the unlikely event that Nancy Pelosi declines to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, this impeachment will become a true historical oddity. No impeachment Congress has ever been dopey enough to refuse a Senate trial — not on any grounds, and certainly not on the grounds that the Senate needs to hear witnesses the House did not hear from due to its rush to get the impeachment over with.
If Nancy Pelosi wants to make history, that’s the way to do it.