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Welch, Sanders Reflect On Congressional Responsibilities As Impeachment Moves Forward

Rep Peter Welch
Alex Brandon
Associated Press
Rep. Peter Welch, pictured during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 19. Welch said he supports the articles of impeachment that House Democrats are bringing against President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday morning, House Democrats announced the two articles of impeachment they are bringing against President Donald Trump.

As Rep. Peter Welch and the rest of the House prepare to vote, the possibility of a Senate trial also prompts questions about how senators who are presidential candidates — like Sen. Bernie Sanders — may be impacted by the timing.

The House

Vermont Rep. Peter Welch said his decision to support the impeachment of the president marks the most significant, and the hardest, vote in his seven terms in Congress.

In the 14 years that Welch has served in the U.S. House, he's cast thousands of votes on a wide variety of controversial issues — but Welch said there's never been one like the upcoming vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump.

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Welch listened to days of public testimony, and speaking to Vermont Edition last week, the congressman voiced support for impeachment:

"The idea that the president of the United States would use his office to extract a concession and help in his campaign from a foreign ally and essentially put his political interests before the national security interests of the country is unacceptable," Welch said Friday.

Following the House Judiciary's official unveiling of the two articles of impeachment Tuesday, Welch said there's no question in his mind that the president is guilty of an abuse of power and an obstruction of justice.

"I'm very settled that the vote that I'm making reflects my honest evaluation of the evidence," Welch said Tuesday. "It's the hardest vote in the sense that it goes to the use of an authority in the Constitution that is very rarely used — and it's a divisive process, impeachment."

Despite it being a difficult situation, Welch said, "we do have a Constitutional duty when the circumstances require us to follow the impeachment authority given to the House in the Constitution."

The full House is expected to vote on the articles of impeachment in the middle of next week.

The Senate

Should it pass the full House, the Senate will hold a trial to review the charges in January.

Sen. Patrick Leahy's office did not have a statement Tuesday regarding the House's articles of impeachment, but Sen. Bernie Sanders released the following statement:

“Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in history, and he must be held accountable. Let me be clear: while the announcement of articles of impeachment is not a moment for celebration, I strongly believe they are appropriate and necessary, and I call on the full House of Representatives to pass them. “Once the House proceeds to impeachment, Leader McConnell must quickly schedule a full trial in the Senate, where I will uphold my constitutional responsibility as a juror.”

The timeline of a potential Senate trial could impact the Democratic presidential race, considering Sanders and four other senators are candidates. A trial would restrict campaign time in early primary states because the candidates would be in the Senate for several weeks for the impeachment trial.

Ted Kohn, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Norwich University, said candidates who currently serve in the Senate could be hurt by the timing of a possible January trial.

Should those candidates have to be in Washington for an impeachment trial, Kohn said one way their campaigns could deal with this situation is by sending surrogates that would still energize the candidate's base in those states.

For Sanders, Kohn said, that could mean sending someone like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in his stead — but Kohn also said Sanders' strong grassroots organizations in Iowa and New Hampshire could help him maintain a strong presence in those early primary states.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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