October 31, 2019
The resolution opens to door to the next phase in Democrats’ probe of the president — public hearings.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington on Aug. 15, 2019. Brendan Smialowski / AFP – Getty Images file
By Dareh Gregorian | NBC News
The House is set to vote Thursday morning on how to proceed with its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump — a move that will put lawmakers on record about where they stand and that Republicans are decrying as a sham.
Debate on the procedures — which include beginning public hearings and the release of some of the information gathered in the ongoing inquiry over the last few weeks — is expected to begin around 9 am, ET.
All House Republican are expected to oppose the resolution, as may a handful of Democrats who are not on board with the impeach inquiry.
Democrats have set aside one hour for debate on the resolution — 30 minutes for Democrats, 30 minutes for Republicans. If it goes according to schedule, the vote could be completed before noon, but if the GOP minority makes use of parliamentary delaying tactics, the process could take a lot longer.
Thursday’s vote outlines what Democrats are describing as the next phase in the impeachment inquiry. It establishes ground rules for open hearings and gives the ranking Republican member on the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ability to issue subpoenas — if committee chair, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., agrees.
It also calls for making public the witness depositions that have been done to date, and would allow the president or his counsel to participate in proceedings held by the House Judiciary Committee, which has the authority to advance articles of impeachment.
But if the president “refuses to cooperate” with congressional requests, “the Chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the President or his counsel,” the resolution says.
Republicans have decried Democrats’ handling of the probe since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced in late September that the House was moving forward “with an official impeachment inquiry.”
Pelosi said the inquiry was necessary after Trump acknowledged he’d asked Ukraine’s president to investigate Trump rival Joe Biden and his son.
Republicans contend Pelosi didn’t follow proper procedure because the House hadn’t vote to formally proceed with the impeachment inquiry, as it had in the past. Democrats — and a federal judge — said that’s not accurate.
“Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry,” Washington, D.C., federal court Judge Beryl Howell wrote in a ruling on the issue last week.
But citing that lack of a vote, the White House vowed not to cooperate with the inquiry. Republican leadership has complained that witnesses were being questioned behind closed doors, and that the president was being deprived of “due process.”
Democrats said the questioning was being done in private in an effort to stop witnesses from tailoring their testimony to fit others’ accounts. Legal experts have compared the House’s role in the process as a grand jury, and noted if the House votes on articles of impeachment, the Senate will have a trial on the charges where the president is entitled to a full defense.