President Trump and Republicans in Congress have railed against House Democrats for pursuing an impeachment inquiry without a vote on the floor to authorize the probe.
On Monday the Democrats deprived them of that issue.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, announced that on Wednesday his panel would mark up a resolution that would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward” for the impeachment inquiry that Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared “official” last month.
Pelosi, who long had resisted calls for impeachment from members of her caucus, changed her mind in September after a whistleblower complained about the July 25 telephone call in which Trump suggested to Ukraine’s president that that country should investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
But even as she blessed impeachment inquiries by several House committees, she stopped short of announcing a vote on the House floor to authorize the investigation — even though such votes occurred in the impeachment investigations of Presidents Clinton and Nixon. (In Nixon’s case, the floor vote occurred more than three months after the Judiciary Committee launched its investigation.)
You don’t have to be a Trump supporter to advocate a floor vote. The Los Angeles Times editorial board urged one as long ago as September because it would enhance the investigation’s credibility.
In agreeing to a floor vote, possibly as early as Thursday, the Democratic majority hasn’t conceded that such a vote is necessary. (It isn’t, as a constitutional matter.) Paradoxically, the Democrats may have found it easier to move to a floor vote after a federal judge ruled last week that the House Judiciary Committee was acting pursuant to its impeachment power in seeking grand jury information that had been blacked out in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.
On Monday, Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats saying the resolution “affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees” as well as establishing procedures for transfers of documents to the House Judiciary Committee and for “due process rights for the president and his counsel.”
The president’s supporters aren’t taking yes for an answer. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham reacted to Monday’s announcement by claiming that “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.”
Pelosi was admitting to no such thing. But her willingness to hold a floor vote demonstrates her confidence in the outcome and signals that the testimony the inquiry has adduced so far is ominous for the president.