Where N.C. Senators Stand on Impeachment Inquiry
Last Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the U.S. House of Representatives would open a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. The announcement followed a complaint from an anonymous U.S. intelligence officer, now known as the “whistle-blower,” alleging that the president was “using his position to solicit interference from a foreign government in the 2020 U.S. election.” The complaint includes claims that President Trump was pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden on allegations of corruption. The call coincided with President Trump freezing an aid package bound for for Ukraine. The White House recently released a readout of President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, as the House ramps up a series of investigations and hearings. In the wake of this flurry of events, early polling suggests that the majority of Americans are in favor of impeachment, although the polling is still preliminary.
Representatives from North Carolina are divided along party lines. Democrats Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield and David Price have publicly expressed support of an impeachment inquiry while Republicans Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Virginia Foxx, George Holding, Richard Hudson, Patrick T. McHenry, Mark Meadows, David Rouzer and Mark Walker all have announced that they are decidedly against impeachment. Republican Greg Murphy is the only representative who has yet to comment, unsurprisingly, as he only won his spot in a special election earlier this month. However, since there is a large enough majority in the House right now to pass an impeachment vote, it is possible that President Trump could be formally impeached, at which point the ball would be in the hands of the Republican controlled Senate.
So, where do Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, North Carolina’s two Republican Senators, stand on impeachment? Tillis is firmly in the anti-impeachment camp, tweeting out on Sept. 25 that “Nancy Pelosi should be embarrassed. The transcript debunks the Democrat’s false claims against President Trump and demonstrates that their call to impeach him is a total farce.” Tillis’ position is not surprising, considering North Carolina voted for Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election and he consistently aligns himself with the Republican party and President Trump’s platform. However, Tillis might be in trouble for re-election in 2020. A local poll of NC residents conducted recently by High Point University found that only 27% of North Carolinians approve of Tillis job thus far, with 38% disapproving. This comes on the heels of Tillis bucking the party line on immigration issues: he published an op-ed in the Washington Post in February 2019, declaring that he would oppose Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. However, a result of his precarious polling position, Tillis has shifted to the right in order to energize his base and protect his Senate seat, and ended up voting with the President in March. Therefore, a Tillis vote in favor of convicting Trump is unlikely.
Burr, on the other hand, has thus far remained publicly silent on the matter, although he reportedly suggested to the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (which he chairs) that they should “get the facts before people start jumping to conclusions.” Burr’s situation, however, is a little bit different than that of Tillis. After winning the Senate race in 2016, he announced that he would not seek re-election in 2022, which, if true, would mark an end to a 27 year tenure in Congress. Trump and Burr have a bit more complicated history than Trump does with Tillis. Burr served as an advisor to the Trump campaign and has voted in line with Trump 92% of the time. However, Burr has proved more willing to probe the President than other Republicans, most famously seen when Burr subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to the dismay of President Trump and the GOP. But perhaps most importantly, Burr has no reason to worry about electoral consequences since he is not seeking re-election. He is also in the unique position of chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee, which gives him access to classified information that few other members in Congress can see. His position will be impossible to predict before the facts become more apparent, but it’s more likely that he’ll vote with the GOP than not. But, with Burr’s current ambiguous stance, position, and past of being willing to investigate the President, he might surprise us all.