Pa.’s U.S. House Dems vote to greenlight Trump impeachment inquiry

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Thursday voted to formalize its impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. 

Lawmakers adopted a resolution that lays out procedures for the inquiry that is already taking place in the House. That investigation is centered on whether the president abused his power by attempting to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponent. 

The measure passed largely along partisan lines by a vote of 232-196, with no Republicans backing the resolution. One independent, Justin Amash of Michigan, voted in favor of the resolution and two Democrats voted against it. 

Democrats hailed the resolution as a roadmap that will provide for a fair and transparent process, while Republicans supportive of the president assailed the effort as a political attack. 

“What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said ahead of the vote. “Sadly, this is not any cause for any glee or comfort. This is something that is very solemn.” 

House Democratic leadership had previously announced a formal inquiry, but held a floor vote in part to combat complaints from Republicans that the full chamber hadn’t been allowed to vote. Still, Thursday’s vote is unlikely to reduce the partisan fighting over the process. 

Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning, “The Impeachment Hoax is hurting our Stock Market. The Do Nothing Democrats don’t care!” He added later, “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”

Trump’s critics in the House insist that the president’s behavior and their constitutional obligations have driven them to pursue their investigation. 

Poll: More than half of Pa. voters support Trump impeachment inquiry | Thursday Morning Coffee

“The House impeachment inquiry has discovered a substantial body of evidence that the president of the United States has violated the Constitution by placing his political interests above the interests of the country, thereby putting both our democracy and the nation’s security in jeopardy,” U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.,  said. “In light of this evidence, the House of Representatives must fully investigate.” 

Raskin said the impeachment inquiry guidelines are “fair and strong and make sure that we can and will defend the Constitution of the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, said she took “no joy in contemplating the impeachment of a president, because in contemplating it, we must acknowledge a threat to our constitution and the values that bind us, not only as members of Congress but as Americans.” 

House lawmakers, Scanlon added during floor remarks, have tried to investigate allegations of Trump’s misconduct using “traditional means,” only to be “stonewalled” by the White House. 

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District, said he didn’t come to Congress to pursue an impeachment process, but “the facts demand it.” He added, “What we decide today will say more about us than it says about the conduct of the president.” 

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, called Thursday’s approval a “vote to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. Under the Constitution, which was drafted and announced in Philadelphia, no one is above the law.”

“If the average Philadelphian had defied subpoenas to appear in court or provide records for an investigation, they would be in jail,” Evans said. “Even President Trump has urged Republican members of Congress to focus on the substance, not the process — so let’s proceed with the investigation.”

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, added that the vote is ““the right step to determine whether sufficient grounds exist to move forward with articles of impeachment.”

“The resolution is the next phase of the House impeachment inquiry and provides the path for public hearings, collection of evidence, and due process for the president,” Dean said in a statement released by her office. “The American people will hear directly from witnesses in an open setting—where the President and his counsel will have ample opportunity to state their case.”

Republican lawmakers continued to decry the process, drawing criticisms from Democrats that they’re making procedural arguments to avoid discussing the president’s behavior. 

“Facing mounting criticism for this Soviet-style process, House Democrats produced their impeachment inquiry resolution under the guise of transparency,” U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, said in a statement.” From the beginning, this unprecedented inquisition has been a breathless political tactic that denies President Trump due process and robs elected Members of Congress from fulfilling their Constitutional responsibilities. Today’s vote changes nothing and is shameful.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, who’s been among Trump’s staunchest Capitol Hill defenders, called Thursday’s House vote “a mirage of fairness.”

“After more than a month of [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff’s secret hearings and selective leaking, the Do-Nothing-Democrats caved to pressure and tried to legitimize the unfair, hyper-partisan inquiry that is already underway,” Kelly said in a statement released by his office. “This resolution is a mirage – an attempt to create the perception of fairness, transparency, and due process. In truth, this sham inquiry contains none of those cherished American values.”

Some moderate Democrats who voted for the inquiry stressed that their support for the investigation does not indicate how they may ultimately vote on articles of impeachment. 

House lawmakers could vote as soon as this year on articles of impeachment against the president. If approved, the articles would be the subject of a trial in the Senate, where the GOP-led chamber is unlikely to vote to convict the president.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.