House to vote for first time on impeachment procedures

by CRISTINA MARCOS | The Hill
October 29, 2019

House Democrats will for the first time vote on impeachment procedures on Thursday, a shift in their strategy seemingly meant to cut off GOP arguments about an unfair process.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Monday that he will introduce a resolution this week to “ensure transparency” and “provide a clear path forward” in the impeachment inquiry.

The text of the resolution has yet to be released, but McGovern plans to introduce it Tuesday ahead of a markup in his committee Wednesday. A senior Democratic aide said that the resolution is expected to hit the House floor on Thursday.

It would be the first formal vote on the new impeachment process by the House since Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threw her support behind an inquiry in September.

Democrats have insisted they did not need to hold a floor vote to launch the impeachment inquiry itself, despite calls for such a vote from the White House and Republicans.

Pelosi explained the move in a letter to House Democrats that suggested it would give the caucus new leverage with the administration.

“We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump Administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives,” Pelosi wrote in the letter.

The resolution will not launch the investigation, as Democrats continue to say there is no reason to hold such a vote.

Instead, it is expected to affirm the ongoing investigation and establish procedures for public hearings, authorize the release of witness deposition transcripts and outline the process for transferring evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which would be tasked with drafting and approving articles of impeachment.

As a result, it could be an easier vote for centrist lawmakers who do not want to take a formal vote on launching an impeachment investigation. Pelosi has steadily sought to protect such members.
All the same, it could also be used by Democrats to push back at GOP arguments over the process of impeachment.

“As committees continue to gather evidence and prepare to present their findings, I will be introducing a resolution to ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward,” McGovern said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do for the institution and the American people.”

An official working on the impeachment inquiry said that the resolution will establish procedures for open hearings to be conducted by the House Intelligence Committee, with questioning led by both staff and members.

“This has proved a format conducive to fact-finding during the depositions,” the official said.

Republicans have blasted Democrats over the process, something that hit a peak last week when dozens of GOP lawmakers stormed the secure facility to protest the lack of more widespread access for all members of the House.

Only members of the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — are allowed to sit in on the witness interviews in a secure facility in the sub-basement of the Capitol. Members of both parties are allowed to attend and ask questions of witnesses.

House Democrats will for the first time vote on impeachment procedures on Thursday, a shift in their strategy seemingly meant to cut off GOP arguments about an unfair process.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Monday that he will introduce a resolution this week to “ensure transparency” and “provide a clear path forward” in the impeachment inquiry.

The text of the resolution has yet to be released, but McGovern plans to introduce it Tuesday ahead of a markup in his committee Wednesday. A senior Democratic aide said that the resolution is expected to hit the House floor on Thursday.

It would be the first formal vote on the new impeachment process by the House since Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threw her support behind an inquiry in September.

Democrats have insisted they did not need to hold a floor vote to launch the impeachment inquiry itself, despite calls for such a vote from the White House and Republicans.

Pelosi explained the move in a letter to House Democrats that suggested it would give the caucus new leverage with the administration.

“We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump Administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives,” Pelosi wrote in the letter.

The resolution will not launch the investigation, as Democrats continue to say there is no reason to hold such a vote.

Instead, it is expected to affirm the ongoing investigation and establish procedures for public hearings, authorize the release of witness deposition transcripts and outline the process for transferring evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which would be tasked with drafting and approving articles of impeachment.

As a result, it could be an easier vote for centrist lawmakers who do not want to take a formal vote on launching an impeachment investigation. Pelosi has steadily sought to protect such members.
All the same, it could also be used by Democrats to push back at GOP arguments over the process of impeachment.

“As committees continue to gather evidence and prepare to present their findings, I will be introducing a resolution to ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward,” McGovern said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do for the institution and the American people.”

An official working on the impeachment inquiry said that the resolution will establish procedures for open hearings to be conducted by the House Intelligence Committee, with questioning led by both staff and members.

“This has proved a format conducive to fact-finding during the depositions,” the official said.

Republicans have blasted Democrats over the process, something that hit a peak last week when dozens of GOP lawmakers stormed the secure facility to protest the lack of more widespread access for all members of the House.

Only members of the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — are allowed to sit in on the witness interviews in a secure facility in the sub-basement of the Capitol. Members of both parties are allowed to attend and ask questions of witnesses.

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Earlier this month, the White House said that it would not comply with the impeachment inquiry because the House had not taken a formal vote to establish it as it did with the impeachments of former Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

Adoption of the resolution is unlikely to prevent Republicans from attacking the impeachment inquiry.

“House Democrats now suddenly saying they’ll vote on an impeachment resolution to ‘ensure transparency’ is rich—considering they’ve spent weeks conducting interviews in secret, leaking their own talking points while locking down any and all information that benefits the President,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a top Trump ally and senior Oversight and Reform Committee member.

The White House said it would need to see the text of the resolution before fully commenting.

“We won’t be able to comment fully until we see the actual text, but Speaker Pelosi is finally admitting what the rest of America already knew — that Democrats were conducting an unauthorized impeachment proceeding, refusing to give the President due process, and their secret, shady, closed door depositions are completely and irreversibly illegitimate,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

Democrats are aiming to wrap up the impeachment process before the Iowa caucuses in early February and hope to get to the public phase of their investigation in the coming weeks.

While this would mark the first floor vote on impeachment with Pelosi’s backing, the House has voted on impeachment.

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) has forced three House floor votes to consider his articles of impeachment against Trump. Two were while Republicans controlled the House in 2017 and 2018, while the most recent vote was in July, shortly before former special counsel Robert Mueller testified about his report on Russian election interference and Trump’s attempts to undermine his investigation.

All of Green’s efforts failed given that a majority of House Democrats did not yet support impeachment at any of those times.

Most Democrats now support an impeachment inquiry, but a handful of vulnerable centrist House Democrats withheld their support for officially launching the inquiry last month and remain skeptical of impeachment, including Reps. Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.), Kendra Horn (Okla.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Joe Cunningham (S.C.), Jared Golden (Maine) and Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.).

While this week’s vote will not be on articles of impeachment, it will nonetheless put House Democrats on the record about how they intend to conduct their impeachment inquiry.

Democratic leaders insisted that a vote launching an inquiry was not necessary, given that the committees already have subpoena power thanks to rules changes made by Republicans when they last held the House majority.

“The existing rules of the House provide House Committees with full authority to conduct investigations for all matters under their jurisdiction, including impeachment investigations. There is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Oct. 3.

The vote would come as House Democrats have already had success in the courts and with obtaining witness interviews under subpoena. A federal judge ruled on Friday that the Justice Department must hand over certain redacted information from Mueller’s report.

D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, ruled that the House does not need to authorize the impeachment inquiry with a floor vote in a rejection of the Trump administration’s argument.

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