The Impeachment Process Begins With Congress

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Improbable though it seems just four months into the Trump administration, the I-word is suddenly on everyone's lips. Dozens of Democrats, and even a couple of Republicans, have publicly raised the possibility of impeachment in recent weeks, owing to a slew of damaging, sense-defying statements and actions by President Donald Trump following his firing of former FBI director James Comey. Seeing as a president hasn't been impeached in nearly two decades, however, you might be fuzzy on the details ― where do impeachment hearings start, for example?

Fortunately, this is a question with a simple answer. Impeachment proceedings must begin in the House of Representatives before moving on to the U.S. Senate. If a majority of the representatives vote to impeach, then the Senate holds a trial to determine whether or not to actually remove the president from office. In the Senate portion of the process, a two-thirds vote is required to remove the president.

It's important to note that a president is impeached if the House votes to do so, but not removed from office unless it's approved by the Senate. That's why former president Bill Clinton was indeed impeached, but was never actually booted out of office by the Senate.

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In other words, were the Democratic Party to retake control of the House in the 2018 midterms, they'd be able to vote for Trump's impeachment without any need for bipartisan agreement. It's not so simple in the Senate, however ― a 67-vote threshold for his removal is a very high hurdle to clear. As it stands, the Republicans control 52 seats in the U.S. Senate, meaning they'd need to lose 19 of them for Trump to be removed without Republican support. In simple terms, that's not going to happen, so any serious effort to impeach and remove him would have to involve some amount of cooperation from the GOP.

Which is just another way of saying that it's almost definitely not going to happen. When you consider the many scandals and controversies that have already embroiled his presidency ― including a recent pattern of actions that looks like textbook obstruction of justice ― the incredibly narrow range of criticism he's received from members of his own party shows you shouldn't get your hopes up.

If Trump were publicly calling for single-payer health care paid for by tax increases on millionaires and billionaires, maybe the Republicans would suddenly be more disturbed than they are. But as long as he keeps playing ball on the GOP's traditional domestic policy proposals, he'll probably be safe and secure from any real consequences.