Some House Democrats are privately calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to hold a vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry to undermine Republican criticism that the process is illegitimate, Politico reported this week.
So far, Pelosi has refused to schedule a vote, arguing that the Constitution and House rules do not require the lawmakers to do so.
Meanwhile, the White House and its Republican congressional allies contend that such a vote is necessary to legitimize the inquiry per the recognized standards of previous impeachment efforts.
Some Democratic lawmakers and aides have begun to say privately — and, to a lesser extent, publicly — that the House should just vote to formalize the inquiry, robbing the GOP of its main talking point.
Though a small but growing chorus of Democrats has started urging a vote simply to undercut this GOP talking point, others say that nothing will stop Trump and his supporters from claiming Democrats’ efforts are unfair and inconsistent with past impeachment procedures. They say the party shouldn’t take the White House’s bait, arguing that the president’s defenders will simply find other reasons to not comply with the inquiry.
The “private” debate on whether or not to hold a vote “is threatening to cleave Democrats’ unified front” in favor of impeachment, the news outlet added.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) publicly called for a vote, telling Politico,“If Nancy asked me, I would say sure, let’s have a vote. Everybody’s on record, so they’re not going to vote any differently. What’s the danger in having a vote to formalize it?”
House lawmakers voted to allow an investigation into whether to impeach President Bill Clinton and President Richard Nixon. Republicans have pointed to those votes as evidence that Democrats are acting in an unfair and illegitimate manner.
Democrats have long argued that they don’t need a vote to launch formal impeachment proceedings, even if that had been the practice in prior presidential impeachment processes. In fact, House lawyers backed by Pelosi have made that argument in a succession of court cases seeking evidence to support their impeachment inquiry, and proponents of that position worry a formal vote would undercut their legal claims.
Similarly, Democrats are worried that a near-term floor vote would drive away a handful of Republicans who are wavering over whether to support impeachment proceedings. A party-line vote would hand the White House another talking point, they argue: that impeachment is a purely partisan effort by Democrats.
In a letter to Pelosi and the House chairmen pursuing the impeachment inquiry, the White House said the Democrats were conducting a “constitutionally invalid” and “illegitimate” impeachment probe that absolves lawmakers of “taking political accountability.”
The White House said it would not cooperate with the ongoing “partisan” impeachment investigation. Although the letter stopped short of explicitly calling on Pelosi to hold a vote, it all but dared the Speaker to do so.
Most of the 235 members of the House Democratic Caucus support the impeachment probe, but there are still eight who did not, as of Thursday afternoon, a tally from the New York Times revealed.