Hoyer Floor Remarks on Articles of Impeachment
December 18, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the two articles of impeachment against the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video.
Click here to watch the video.
“Madam Speaker, I’ve had the honor of serving in this House for over thirty-eight years. I’ve served during six presidencies. I’ve been here through moments of tremendous progress and terrible tragedy. I’ve seen periods of rank partisanship and patriotic bipartisanship. I’ve seen our two-party system work, and I’ve seen it break down.
“Never, in all my years serving in this great institution and the people of my district, did I ever expect to encounter such obvious wrongdoing by a President of the United States. Nor did I expect to witness such craven rationalization of presidential actions, which have put our national security at risk, undermined the integrity of our elections, and defied the Constitutional authority of the Congress to conduct oversight.
“We’ve heard from Republicans that this impeachment really has to do with policy differences or concerns about the President’s temperament or that we simply dislike the President. They’ve alleged that Democrats have been itching to impeach him since he first took office. The facts say otherwise.
“Throughout the Trump presidency, Democrats have resisted pursuing impeachment even as we watched with dismay and disgust at a pattern of wrongdoing. That pattern included ordering federal agencies to lie to the public, firing the FBI Director for refusing to end an investigation of his campaign, siding with Vladimir Putin over our intelligence agencies, taking funding away from the military to put toward an ineffective border wall, and setting policies that have led to the separation of families and the caging of children. We have, to be sure, deep disagreements with the policies and actions taken by this president. But they are not reasons to pursue what Chairman Schiff has called, ‘a wrenching process for the nation.’
“In fact, Democrats rejected that process emphatically in three specific votes. In December of 2017, Democrats overwhelmingly voted against pursuing articles of impeachment, including the Speaker and myself. We did so again in 2018, with over sixty percent of Democrats rejecting that path. Again, in July 2019, just days before the infamous July 25 telephone call, we did the same, with sixty percent of Democrats voting not to proceed.
“It was not until there was clear evidence that the President was abusing his power to serve his own interests – at the expense of our democracy, our national security, and the safeguarding of our elections from foreign interference – that we were compelled to consider articles of impeachment. Credible witnesses, many of whom were appointed to office by President Trump, have corroborated the details and timeline of his abuse of presidential power, which forms the basis of the first article of impeachment in this resolution. I will not recount them here. They have been laid out fully in the articles before us and by colleagues in their remarks.
“What I will do is remind Americans that the House provided President Trump every opportunity to prove his innocence. Instead, he ignored Congressional subpoenas for documents and for testimony by White House officials and ordered his subordinates not to cooperate. This itself is unprecedented. When Presidents Nixon and Clinton were asked to hand over documents and allow officials to testify, ultimately both complied. Because it is the law. Such actions of the President can be taken as further evidence of his obstruction and abuse of power. It is itself impeachable conduct, the subject of the second article in this resolution.
“These two articles before us concern two very profound Constitutional issues about the abuse of power in our republic. First, whether it is acceptable for the President of the United States to solicit foreign interference in our elections, undermining our national security and the integrity of our democracy. And second, whether it is permissible for the president to obstruct Congress and act as if he is above the law and immune from Constitutional oversight.
“On December 4, the Judiciary Committee heard the testimony of Constitutional law experts who weighed in on these points. One of them, Professor Noah Feldman, cautioned: ‘If we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a monarchy, or we live under a dictatorship.’
“The votes we are about to take concern the rule of law and our democracy itself. Let us not forget the words of the philosopher John Locke, so influential to the Founders of our republic. He warned: ‘Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.’
“This impeachment asks whether we are still a republic of laws, as our Founders intended – or whether we will accept that one person can be above the law. In America, no one is above the law, but only as long as we hold every person accountable for breaking the law – even a president. Especially a president.
“If the House does not act – if we wait and delay – we run the risk of allowing the President’s misconduct to be repeated at the expense of the integrity of our elections, our national security, and our Constitutional system of separation of powers. Democrats did not choose impeachment. We did not wish for it. But President Trump’s misconduct has forced our Constitutional republic to protect itself.
“These votes we are about to take – and the process that will follow in the Senate – are not only an assessment of the President’s commitment to the Constitution or to his oath of office. It is, as well, a test of our own. Damning evidence of the President’s high crimes has emerged. Nevertheless, Republican Members of this House and of the Senate have continued to defend a President whose actions and statements are indefensible.
“All of us feel a sense of loyalty to party. It’s what makes our two-party system function. It’s what helps hold presidents and majorities accountable. But party loyalty must have its limits. And as evidence of the President’s impeachable offenses has mounted, it has become increasingly clear that the limits of partisanship have been reached and passed.
“Now, Democrats and Republicans together face a test before our constituents, our countrymen, and our Creator.
“The New York Times on October 18 summarized the question now posed to House and Senate Republicans: ‘Compromise by compromise, Donald Trump has hammered away at what Republicans once saw as foundational virtues: decency, honesty, responsibility. …Will they commit themselves and their party wholly to Mr. Trump, embracing even his most anti-democratic actions, or will they take the first step toward separating themselves from him and restoring confidence in the rule of law?’
“Madam Speaker, we have seen Republican courage throughout our history, from the Civil War to the Cold War. In 1950, Margaret Chase Smith, the Senator from Maine, spoke bravely against the cancer of McCarthyism in her party, leading six of her Republican colleagues in a ‘Declaration of Conscience’ against their own leadership.‘We are Republicans,’ they declared, ‘but we are Americans first.’
“In 1974, one Congressman took the brave and principled step of becoming the first Republican on the Judiciary Committee to support impeaching President Nixon. He said to his colleagues and to the country: ‘…It isn’t easy for me to align myself against the president to whom I gave my enthusiastic support… on whose side I’ve stood in many legislative battles, whose accomplishments in foreign and domestic affairs I’ve consistently applauded. But it’s impossible for me to condone or ignore the long train of abuses to which he has subjected the presidency and the people of this country. The Constitution and my own oath of office demand that I bear true faith and allegiance to the principles of law and justice upon which this nation was founded. And I cannot in good conscience turn away from the evidence of evil that is to me so clear and compelling.’
“That Congressman’s name was Larry Hogan Sr. He represented the Fifth District of Maryland, which I now represent. His son is presently the second-term Republican governor of our state. When Larry Hogan Sr. died in 2017, every obituary led with praise for his great act of political courage. Who among us, many years from now, will receive such praise as a man or woman of courage? Who will regret not having earned it?
“When Rep. Justin Amash left the Republican Party, he admonished his colleagues that: ‘This president will only be in power for a short time, but excusing his behavior will forever tarnish your name.’ Rep. Amash, of course, is the only Member of this House who has no allegiance to either party. He is supporting both articles of impeachment.
“We need not ask who will be the first to show courage by standing up to President Trump. The question we must now ask is: who will be the last to find it?
“The pages of our history are filled with Americans who had the courage to choose country over party or personality. But, as President Kennedy wrote: ‘The stories of past courage …can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.’
“I urge my colleagues in the House and in the Senate: look into your soul. Summon the courage to vote for our Constitution and our democracy. To do less betrays our oath and that of our Founders, who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Let us neither turn away from the evidence, which is so clear, nor from our good conscience, which compels us to do what in our hearts we know to be right. Let us not allow the rule of law to end or for tyranny to find its toehold.
"With our votes today, we can ‘bear true faith and allegiance’ to the vision of our Founders. And we can show future generations what it truly means to be ‘Americans first.’”