Virginia’s congressional delegation divided by party line on Wednesday in the historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, charging him with inciting an insurrection by supporters who stormed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol last week.
Overall, 10 Republicans joined the Democratic majority in a 232-197 vote to impeach Trump.
Virginia’s four Republican congressmen opposed the resolution. The state’s seven Democratic representatives supported it, terming it essential to remove the president for his alleged role in an insurrection that resulted in five deaths, including that of a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
“President Trump has violated his oath of office and in doing so put countless Americans at risk, endangered our Republic and threatened our national security,” said Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, who lives in Richmond. “He is unfit to lead the United States for even a day longer.”
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, whose sprawling district includes Hanover and New Kent counties in the Richmond area, condemned the attack on the Capitol, but opposed impeaching Trump just seven days before he will leave office and be replaced by President-elect Joe Biden.
“My vote against impeachment in no way means I agree with the president’s actions and statements leading up to the storming and illegal entry of the Capitol building, but I believe impeaching the lame-duck President before the peaceful transition of power occurs will only further inflame emotions and further divide the nation,” Wittman said in a statement after the vote. “Our focus now needs to be on unifying our nation and moving forward as one, and I believe impeachment does the opposite.”
Reps. Bob Good, R-5th; Ben Cline, R-6th; and Morgan Griffith, R-9th, also opposed impeachment.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-11th, who spoke in favor of impeachment on the House floor, rejected Republican calls for unity after some in their party challenged the legitimacy of Biden’s election for more than two months, culminating in an attack on the Capitol as Congress was certifying the election results.
“Some of my friends on the other side of the aisle, including the ones who perpetrated this big lie, have called for unity,” said Connolly, chairman of the House Government Relations Subcommittee. “Well I ask, where were those calls for unity when Joe Biden won? Where were the calls for unity when a mob tore through these hallowed halls?”
Wittman voted against certifying Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania while supporting the results in Arizona. Good, Cline and Griffith voted against certification of the electoral totals in both states.
Cline said in a statement ahead of the vote that attempting to impeach Trump at the end of his term “will only further fuel the political divide among our citizens and will be detrimental to long-term efforts to unify our country.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, narrowly re-elected in November in a swing district that traditionally had voted Republican, called the vote for impeachment “a united response to a disgusting act of brutality and sedition.”
Spanberger, a former CIA case worker who was in the House Gallery when rioters tried to break into the chamber, said, “Inside the building, we barricaded ourselves against domestic terrorists who were there out of loyalty to one man — not loyalty to our country.”
“For the sake of national healing, the preferred outcome would have been the outright resignation of the president,” she said in a statement after the vote. “In the absence of this action, the vice president and the Cabinet should have immediately invoked the 25th amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] and protected our democracy. However, neither of these paths [was] followed.”
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-2nd, also beginning her second term representing a swing district in Hampton Roads, called Trump’s actions seditious and said, “The president has proven he is not fit to govern.”
Representatives for Northern Virginia said the insurrection at the Capitol hit close to home in their districts, home to many federal employees who work in or around the Capitol complex.
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died of injuries suffered in the attack on the Capitol, lived in the 8th District. Don Beyer, D-8th, called Trump “a clear and present danger to the United States, and a menace to the Constitution.”
Beyer urged the Senate “to remove him from office as swiftly as possible.”
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd, Virginia’s longest-serving member of Congress, said the impeachment vote “reaffirms the fundamental truth that the security of our democracy is our first priority.”
“It is my hope that the Senate will convict and remove Donald Trump and we can all move forward from this dark chapter in our nation’s history,” Scott said. “I look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to begin healing our country.”