Sen. Rob Portman: Why I voted to acquit President Trump

(Senate Television via AP) In this image from video, Senators vote on the first article of impeachment during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020.

On Wednesday I joined a majority of my Senate colleagues in opposing the impeachment of President Trump brought by the House of Representatives.

For four months, since the release of the memorandum of the call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, I have consistently said that Mr. Trump’s request for an investigation of Joe Biden and any effort to tie the release of military aid to investigations were improper and shouldn’t have happened. However, I do not believe these actions rise to the level where it would be necessary to remove a president from office.

The founders intended for impeachment to be extremely rare, and they required those seeking to remove the president to meet the burden of proving “high crimes and misdemeanors,” like treason or bribery. In this case, unlike in other impeachments, no crime was alleged. Although there may be circumstances where a crime isn’t necessary for a president to be impeached, to be impeached under such a circumstance would require meeting an even higher bar, and it wasn’t met here.

In addition, the House engaged in a rushed process that lacked fundamental fairness. The constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley calls it “the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.” It was also the only purely partisan impeachment in history.

Rushing an impeachment case through the House without due process and giving the Senate a half-baked case to finish set a dangerous precedent. If the Senate were to convict, it would risk making this kind of quick, partisan impeachment in the House a regular occurrence. That would serve only to further deepen the divides that seem to permeate every part of our society today.

People certainly see this divide in Congress. Many believe their elected representatives on both sides of the aisle have lost sight of what’s important and are focusing on politics and partisanship rather than results for the American people.

While the Senate is where this impeachment process will end, it is also the Senate that is best suited to help turn the page and begin a new chapter. We can do that by demonstrating that we can work together and address the issues our constituents care most about. I believe it is possible for both parties to come together for consensus solutions on these three issues:

Lowering Prescription Drug Costs. Researchers are producing life-changing medicines, but all that progress does us no good if they’re unaffordable. It’s gotten so bad that some Americans have to choose between paying their mortgage or rent and being able to afford expensive prescription drugs. In the Senate, three committees have approved legislation intended to help lower out-of-pocket costs for senior citizens, crack down on the high prices set by drug manufacturers and end surprise billing practices that have devastated families with shocking medical bills. The House has its own plan. The president wants to get this done and there is no reason we should not be able to find common ground here.

Improving Skills Training. Everywhere I go in Ohio, employers tell me they need workers who have the skills to fill available jobs — well-paying work as welders, coders and health care technicians, all of which require skills training. I’m working with Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, to pass legislation called the JOBS Act to ensure that Pell grants can be used to cover short-term training programs for these careers. That would help fill well-paid, in-demand jobs and get more people off the sidelines and into our economy. This legislation is bipartisan, and ready to go.

Combating the Addiction Crisis. One area where Congress has worked well together is in combating the opioid epidemic. Significant new federal investment since 2016 is making a difference. Overdose deaths fell nationwide last year, the first time that’s happened in nearly three decades. Despite this progress, synthetic opioids like fentanyl remain a huge problem, and we’ve seen a resurgence of psychostimulants like crystal meth and cocaine. We’re working on bipartisan legislation to address these deadly threats.

And there’s more we can do, from infrastructure to retirement security to protecting our national parks. If Congress acts we can begin to re-instill faith in our institutions and bridge the growing partisan divide. In these highly partisan times, it’s easy for both sides of the aisle to retreat even further into their ideological camps. But for the sake of the country, let’s look for what unites us instead.

Sen. Rob Portman

Sen. Rob Portman is a Republican from Ohio.