WASHINGTON – U.S. House Democrats edged closer Thursday to launching formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
The House Judiciary Committee voted, 24-17, along party lines, to adopt a resolution laying out procedures for an impeachment investigation in the committee.
Florida Democrats Ted Deutch, Val Demings, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell voted for the resolution. Republicans Matt Gaetz and Greg Steube voted against it.
The vote followed two hours of heated debate over Democrats’ motivations. The committee’s Democratic leadership insisted lawmakers are moving cautiously and responsibly before deciding to recommend whether to formally recommend articles of impeachment.
“This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York.
Nadler stressed that the committee’s investigation will go beyond charges that Trump obstructed justice during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. Democrats also intend to investigate allegations of “federal election crimes, self dealing, violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, and a failure to defend our nation from current and future attacks by foreign adversaries,” Nadler said.
More than half of the U.S. House Democrats have said they support moving ahead with a formal impeachment inquiry, according to a New York Times review. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash was the lone House Republican to endorse an impeachment inquiry, but he left the GOP in July, declaring himself an independent.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee accused their colleagues of tip-toeing around impeachment proceedings, an issue that divides the Democratic caucus and that some moderate members fear could hurt the party’s messaging heading into 2020.
“I don’t know quite what to call this,” Gaetz said of the effort. “I’ve called it impeachment in drag, because we’ve sort of dressed up impeachment like an oversight hearing. Perhaps it’s low ‘T’ impeachment, or low-energy impeachment.”
Committee Democrats shrugged off their colleagues’ criticisms.
“Yes, we are in an impeachment investigation,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania. “Have you not been reading the proceedings? I don’t think there’s a question. It’s an investigation.”
Some have labeled the process an impeachment inquiry; others call it an impeachment investigation. “There’s no legal difference between these terms and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” Nadler said.
“The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat and we are doing so.”