WASHINGTON — It’s finally here.
The House passed Democrats’ impeachment rules Thursday morning, an unnecessary vote but one marking a new more public phase in the impeachment investigation.
The vote went nearly completely along party lines. All but two Democrats supported the measure, with all Republicans opposing it. The finally tally: 232 yeas, 196 nays.
The vote was at once historic and ludicrous — a grave moment marking a crisis in government and a political act that wasn’t technically required by the Constitution, marked by Congress’ usual partisan bickering.
“This is not any cause for any glee or comfort. This is something that is very solemn, that is something prayerful,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the House floor shortly before a vote, promising the open hearings to come “will inform the American people on the very difficult decisions we will make in the future as to whether to impeach the president.”
Though the rules are largely in line with those used during the last two impeachments, Republicans continued to howl about an unfair process.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) slammed it as “Soviet-style” on the House floor, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused Democrats of “running an unprecedented, unfair and undemocratic” process. Republicans broke into hollers of unfairness, yelling loudly and futilely about “order” as the vote was closed.
The White House wasn’t far behind.
“With today’s vote, Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats have done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
That’s not true. The House makes its own rules, the vote isn’t constitutionally required, and Democrats wavered back and forth on whether to do it at all — but Pelosi eventually decided to bring the vote to the floor to knock down Republicans’ talking point of closed-door meetings. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from claiming that Democrats poisoned the well with the initial interviews.
The resolution itself codifies the process the House will follow in its impeachment inquiry. In and of itself, it doesn’t actually change anything — but is a sign that House Democrats are getting close to shifting the impeachment process into open hearings in preparation for an eventual impeachment vote.
“I don't have a timeline but I believe it’s soon — that’s why we're doing this,” Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told VICE News Wednesday evening.
The House Intelligence Committee will continue to lead closed-door depositions for now, but appear to be closing in on the end of private testimony. The committee has invited some big-name witnesses next week, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, that were long expected to be amongst the final targets of the impeachment inquiry.
Cover: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)