House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had stated earlier this year that the impeachment of a president must have bipartisan support. Given that not a single Republican in the House voted to even begin a formal inquiry, it seems highly unlikely that there will be Republican support for impeachment. This could change if there were some dramatic new testimony, but it appears that the relevant facts about the Ukraine phone call are already known, and while some Republicans may admit there was a politically motivated quid pro quo for delivering arms to Ukraine and that this was inappropriate, they apparently have concluded, as a party, that this does not rise to the level to warrant impeachment.
Rather than proceed with a party-line impeachment vote (where conviction in the Senate seems an even more remote possibility), the speaker should complete the various hearings — which will provide plenty of ammunition to criticize the president on the campaign trail — but at the end of the process move to censure President Trump.
This would not be a minor response. Indeed, it is less common in American history than impeachment. It is virtually unprecedented. Apparently only President Andrew Jackson was ever formally censured, and even that was expunged later by his political allies.
Censure would allow the House to return to political issues more useful to Democrats and could help protect the seats of those elected in 2018 in districts that had been won by the president. It also would meet the Republican demand that Trump’s fate be decided by the voters in 2020, but with an enhanced record of why he should not be reelected.
The writer is president emeritus of Colby College and a professor emeritus of constitutional law.