Heard on the Hill

Impeachment: It’s for the kids!

Members address kids, grandkids, grandkids’ grandkids, and grandkids’ grandkids’ grandkids

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, D-Mass., buttons his jacket after he was interviewed on camera in the Cannon rotunda as the House of Representatives takes up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in the Capitol on Dec. 18. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Absolutely no day is too busy to remind your kids to “listen to mom” and dad, apparently — even if you are a member of Congress voting to impeach the president of the United States. Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III did just that Wednesday in his floor speech.

“Dear Ellie and James,” the dad began his speech, as if penning a letter. (Not that they would know what a “letter” is).

“Today, I will vote to impeach the president of the United States, and I want you to know why — he broke our laws.”

It didn’t take long for a theme to emerge among Democrats in the House floor debate on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. The theme was simply summed up by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.: “The kids are watching.”

House Democrats seized the opportunity Wednesday to frame their message around the “next generation.” Several members talked about their own children and how they might defend their votes to impeach Trump when asked years down the road. 

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said his “Republicans colleagues have made up their minds” and that’s why he addressed his remarks “to the future.”

Rep. Dan Kildee took the opportunity to give a shoutout to grandkids Caitlin and Colin. “Someday, a long time from now, they’ll ask me about this day,” the Michigan Democrat said. “They’ll ask about the time a president put himself above the law, and they’ll want to know what I did to stop him,” he added.

While members on both sides of the aisle remained divided in their debates, common language linked some of the rhetoric among Democratic members: their kids and grandkids, and the proverbial “law.”

“Let me just say I taught my children that there are consequences if they broke the law,” California Rep. Barbara Lee said as she stood at the podium. “We have an obligation to act today to uphold the Constitution, but also to show our children and grandchildren that no one is above the law.”

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz indicated her daughter had asked her how she’d make her decision to impeach the president. “I want my daughter to tell her children, ‘Grandma did the right thing because in America, no one is above the law.’”

While some members pointed to current lineages, others addressed the future generations that will inevitably follow.

“Politicians worry about the next election. Statesmen worry about the next generation. Today calls upon us to be statesmen,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La.

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., went for a hat trick of kids, grandkids and the future: “I came to Congress to serve the great people of Sacramento and to build a better future for our children and grandchildren, including my grandkids.”

But Democrats weren’t just concerned about their own kids and grandkids, et cetera. They were even worried about their Republican colleagues’ kids and grandkids, et cetera. 

During a Wednesday morning appearance on CNN, Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin was asked for her reaction to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy defending the president. 

[Facing pro-Trump chants, Elissa Slotkin explains support for impeachment]

“I thought about his grandkids one day watching that video. And I don’t think that history is going to reflect well on people who put defending someone in their party ahead of what they know the Founding Fathers said very explicitly they were worried about, which is foreign influence in our political process,” Slotkin said. 

Graham MacGillivray contributed to this report.

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