Trump Is Third Impeached President, But Tulsi Gabbard Now First Lawmaker in US History to Vote 'Present' on Key Question

As the progressive activist and commentator Jim Hightower of Texas has famously said, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”

“To not take a stand one way or another in a day of such grave consequence to this country is quite difficult. We’re here to lead.” —Rep. Alexandria Ocasio (D-NY)And, one might add to that, Democratic Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

On Wednesday night, Gabbard became the first member of Congress in U.S. history to vote “present” on the question of impeaching a sitting president.

“I am standing in the center and have decided to vote present,” Gabbard said in a statement.

“I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” Gabbard explained. “I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country.”

For many Democrats, however, it was an untenable and unwise position for Gabbard—also running to become the party’s presidential nominee—to take.

“I really think it was not a smart choice for her politically,” said fellow House Democrat, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, during an interview on Democracy Now. “I thought that was very disappointing and, frankly, a cop out.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), as The Daily Beast reports, told reporters after the vote that “to not take a stand one way or another in a day of such grave consequence to this country is quite difficult. We’re here to lead.”

Instead of impeaching Trump, Gabbard has called for the president to be censured, an official rebuke by the House but devoid of tangible consequences. Her decision to vote “present” on the impeachment articles before the U.S. House, however, was historic.

When President Bill Clinton was formally impeached by the U.S. House in 1998, there were four articles brought against him. While two of the articles were approved and two failed, largely along party lines, no member of Congress voted simply “present” on any of the counts. When President Andrew Jackson faced impeachment in 1867, the final House vote was 128 in favor to 47 who opposed. While the U.S. House was much smaller at the time, there were no votes for “present” recorded as the House sent the articles of impeachment to U.S. Senate for trial.

Journalist Matt Fuller, political correspondent for HuffPost, commented that Gabbard’s vote was indicative of a politician who has proven “a knack for pissing BOTH SIDES off.”

Many Democratic voters and pundits were furious with Gabbard’s position as the congresswoman’s name, and the derisive hashtag #GabbardIsACoward, were both trending on social media Thursday morning.

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