Politics Explained: House vote makes impeachment inquiry more public, here’s what it means

Politics Explained: House vote makes impeachment inquiry more public, here’s what it means

(WIS) - Thursday was the first time the entire House of Representatives took a vote related to impeachment.

It was not a vote on the impeachment inquiry, but rather a vote on the rules that will guide the process of the investigation moving forward.

The 232 to 196 vote, that was nearly along party lines, lays out specific rules on how the House will handle the impeachment investigation. All Republicans voted against the rules, with two Democrats joining them: Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

The Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Cali.), will hold open hearings with key witnesses.

The highest ranking Republican and Democrat of the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Cali.), will each have 45 minutes to question witnesses. Both lawmakers can also bring in other staff members, like lawyers, to question witnesses in that time.

In addition to conducting open-door hearings, Schiff said he will make transcripts from previous closed-door hearings public.

Under the new rules, Republicans are also allowed to subpoena witnesses, but first need approval by the chair or the full, Democratic-majority committee.

After those proceedings, a report will be sent to the Judiciary Committee and a redacted version will be made public, according to the resolution.

The Judiciary Committee, which historically has led impeachment inquiries, is also allowed to do their own investigations and add onto the Intelligence Committee’s findings.

It is in the Judiciary Committee where the Articles of Impeachment -- the document charging the president with an impeachable offense -- could end up being written. That document and other recommendations would then go to the full House of Representatives where there could be an actual vote on impeaching President Donald Trump.

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There are two crucial distinctions about Thursday’s vote that Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham wants to make clear: the fact that this launches a sequence of open hearings, and that it is not the actual impeachment vote.

Cunningham represents a district in the Lowcountry that overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016, and he has been one of the last Democratic members of Congress to say he supports the vote.

In a statement, Cunningham wrote:

“This vote brings much needed transparency into the process and makes sure the American people can see and hear the facts...I refuse to prejudge the outcome of this investigation and will withhold judgment on whether the president should be impeached until hearing all the evidence."

However, the clarification he offered hasn’t shielded him from criticism.

Thursday, the South Carolina Republican party targeted Cunningham in a statement, saying:

"Democrats like Joe Cunningham chose to side with Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff...Americans will remember how these Democrats chose to pursue division and investigation over progress and promises.”

Other South Carolina lawmakers also voted with the party line.

Republican Rep. Joe Wilson tweeted in defense of the president saying, “this attack on President Trump is an attempt for Democrats to overturn the will of American voters.”

House Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn said this is about information gathering.

“The time has come to shine a light on [Trump’s] actions…Once the evidence is made public, we can make an informed judgment and move our country beyond these dark days,” he said in a statement.

Clyburn has said the full vote in the House may come as early as Thanksgiving or by Christmas.

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