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McConnell and the consequences of elections

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks to the media with members of the Senate Republican leadership, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., McConnell, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Tuesday.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Congressional Republicans are outraged! They’re angry! It’s so unfair! How dare House Democrats advance an impeachment process against President Donald Trump based on rules that Democrats got to define. To hear them whine and complain as they did before Thursday’s vote to advance a public impeachment inquiry, it would seem that never before in the history of American politics has a majority party dominated such a history-altering process.

Perhaps all their emoting has clouded Republicans’ collective memory. Recall the sudden death back in February 2016 of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. President Barack Obama had the constitutional right to nominate Scalia’s successor. For months, his highly qualified nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, roamed the halls of the Senate hoping to make his case for confirmation. Republicans wouldn’t even talk to him, much less allow a confirmation vote to proceed.

When Democrats complained about how unfair it was, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could barely contain his smile as he declared that he would let the winner of the 2016 presidential election choose Scalia’s replacement. That winner, Trump, has now been given two Supreme Court vacancies to fill. The result dramatically changed the philosophical balance of the court. No matter how loudly Democrats complained, McConnell and other Trump supporters responded chidingly: Elections have consequences.

Years of Trumpian chaos and divisiveness led to a sharp change in voters’ mood in 2018. They decided to put Democrats in control of the House, and those Democrats voted 232 to 196 on Thursday to authorize an open-door inquiry into Trump’s actions, replacing the closed-door process that has been the source of so much GOP complaining about how unfair everything is.

Their complaints about the process conveniently mask the real issue: that Trump abused his powers and violated the law by demanding campaign help from Ukraine in exchange for military assistance. Trump and his defenders would have the nation believe that his July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s president was solely about rooting out corruption in that country, and Trump’s focus on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son had nothing to do with the 2020 elections.

House Republicans wouldn’t spend so much time complaining about the process if they weren’t so afraid of the damning facts behind this case. They can’t defend Trump’s actions because they are indefensible. Trump’s own top advisers testified that he crossed a legal line. And so, Republicans complain about how unfair it all is.

Republicans have Trump to blame for the 2018 election result. And it’s the resulting House Democratic majority that now controls the process leading toward Trump’s impeachment. House Democrats wouldn’t dare vote to push this inquiry into the open, where they plan to air all testimony and documentation that has been conducted so far, unless they were convinced they have a solid case against Trump. McConnell was right all along: Elections have consequences.