The historic vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday drew bipartisan support, though not from Florida’s congressional delegation.
Of the 10 Republicans who broke ranks to charge Trump with “incitement of insurrection” against the United States government, none were from the Sunshine State. Instead, the vote by Florida’s lawmakers was split along party lines: all 11 Democrats backed impeachment and 15 Republicans voted against it.
Rep. Daniel Webster, a Republican from Clermont, did not record a vote.
It is the first time the House has impeached a U.S. president twice. Never have so many members of a presidents’ own party voted to impeach their leader.
The vote came one week after a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a bloody and chaotic attempt to block the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Moments before the attack, Trump whipped the crowd into a frenzy, encouraging them to “fight” and “be strong.” He repeatedly told the crowd that the election was stolen, an assertion that has been rejected by the country’s highest courts and Republican leaders in states where Trump challenged the election.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, called Trump’s actions “the single most depraved betrayal of the U.S Constitution ever committed by a president.”
Trump’s Republicans allies in Congress reminded Democrats that the president also encouraged his supporters to surround the Capitol “peacefully.” It’s a word Trump used once.
In his remarks on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, put a question to his colleagues: “Has any one of those persons who bought violence on our Capitol been brought here to say whether they did that because of our President?”
There was a long silence. “It appears I will receive no answer,” Mast said.
Immediately after, Twitter buzzed with examples of those inside the insurrection announcing their allegiance to Trump. In one video, a man is heard yelling: “We were invited here. We were invited by the president of the United States.”
Webster missed the vote due to “family medical obligations,” but said in a statement it was “not the time to throw more fuel on a fire” by impeaching Trump.
Several of Webster’s Florida colleagues had members vote for them, a rare allowance that has been instituted by the House amid the coronavirus pandemic. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican who tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago, was among those who took advantage of proxy voting; he voted “no.”
Webster doesn’t believe should be allowed to vote that way, his office said, and declined to on principle.
The House’s articles of impeachment now go to the Senate, where their future is unclear. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will not call senators back into session to hold an impeachment trial, though he remains open to ousting the president.
Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, called on the Senate to convict Trump, calling the president “a clear and present threat to our nation.”
Trump’s unflappable support from Florida Republicans to the end reflects how popular of a figure he remains with his party’s base in his adopted home state. Few elected Republicans have distanced themselves from the president and most supported his ill-fated and divisive attempts to block the certification of Biden’s election.
One of those Republicans, newly elected Rep. Scott Franklin of Lakeland, shifted his rhetoric on Wednesday and said it’s now time for the country to come together in a “peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.”
“Impeaching the president with one week remaining in his term will only serve to create further division in an already painfully divided nation,” Franklin said.
But Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, said Congress risked further destruction by failing to impeach Trump.
“Standing up to this reckless president, rejecting his dangerous rhetoric, and impeaching him under the Constitution is necessary to protect our nation,” Deutch said.