The measure will put both Democrats and Republicans on the record about the investigation.
The House will hold a vote on the impeachment inquiry after all, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday.
Pelosi’s statement, shared via a letter to her House colleagues, marks a turnaround from the speaker’s past resistance to holding a chamber-wide vote on the subject. Previously, Pelosi had shied away from a vote like this because it would force moderate members to go on the record about their stance on impeachment, making them vulnerable to Republican attacks.
In the wake of Republican pushback about the “process” behind the inquiry, however, Pelosi said her members would be voting on a resolution that “affirms the ongoing, existing investigation” later this week. It will be the first vote the House has taken on the inquiry since the probe into President Donald Trump officially began in late September, and it’s expected to take place on Thursday, according to the Washington Post.
Public support for an impeachment inquiry has grown in recent weeks as more information has spilled out about a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who Trump pressured to dig up dirt about political rivals.
There’s a key fact that the speaker makes clear in her letter: The House did not need members to vote to formally begin an inquiry, a dynamic that was validated by a federal judge last week. The argument advanced by Republicans — and the president — questioning the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry due to a lack of House vote has “no merit,” she emphasizes. As Vox’s Ella Nilsen explained, the Constitution only includes a few lines about impeachment, but in them it “gives the House and its leaders wide latitude to decide how to handle it”:
Here’s what the Constitution says about the House’s role: “The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.” Likewise, the Constitution gives the Senate the “sole” power to try all impeachments, saying, “no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.”
But beyond those lines, there isn’t much more information spelling out exactly how the process should work — which gives the House free rein to decide how things can go, including whether to launch the inquiry with a full floor vote or not.
To be clear, this isn’t House Democrats voting to approve articles of impeachment to send to the Senate for a trial — it isn’t even a vote to draft them. But the resolution — which can pass with a simple majority, or 218 votes — is intended to provide clarity on the procedures that the lower chamber plans to follow as the inquiry continues. Given Democrats’ 233-member majority in the lower chamber, the measure is likely to move forward.
Republican gripes have centered on how depositions with witnesses have been conducted behind closed doors — even though a similar format was used during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. Pelosi’s announcement signals Democrats are getting ready to move to a more public phase.
“This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the President and his Counsel,” Pelosi writes.
In this vote, members of the House will be expressing their position on the impeachment inquiry, putting pressure on both moderate Democrats and Republicans. Some developments to watch: whether Democrats unanimously back the resolution and whether any Republicans break with the president and vote in favor of the measure. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is already encouraging his caucus not to:
It’s been 34 days since Nancy Pelosi unilaterally declared her impeachment inquiry.
Today’s backtracking is an admission that this process has been botched from the start.
We will not legitimize the Schiff/Pelosi sham impeachment.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) October 28, 2019
Author: Li Zhou