House Readies First Formal Vote in Impeachment Probe

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., second from right, speaks with members of the media Monday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Standing with Schiff are Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., from left, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (CN) – In the first impeachment-related showdown to hit the House floor, Thursday’s Halloween vote on a resolution outlining the inquiry marks a historic, if not necessarily frightening, prospect for some in the White House.

As debate on the floor began this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recited the preamble of the U.S. Constitution while standing beside a poster of the flag.

“The genius of the Constitution, the separation of power, three co-equal branches of government to be a check and balance on each other,” she said. “It is to that we take the oath of office.”

The vote is procedural and is expected to break over party lines: Rather than calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, the resolution merely establishes a set of rules and procedures for how the inquiry will function moving forward.

Defending the resolution, Pelosi said it will let lawmakers fulfill their most important duty: to serve and inform the American people.

“These actions, this process, making it available to the American people, will inform Congress on the very difficult decisions we will have to make in the future as to whether to impeach the president,” she said. “That decision has not been made. That’s what the inquiry will investigate and then we can make the decision based on the truth.”

For Democrats, the vote is a push signifying that they are moving the inquiry into the next level of the investigation. Closed-door hearings are expected to wrap up over the next few weeks, making way for public, televised hearings that will follow.

As Republicans balked at the resolution’s terms and repeatedly dubbed the inquiry a “sham,” Pelosi said she couldn’t understand why Republicans were so fearful of the proceeding.

“Every member should allow the American people to hear the facts for themselves,” she said. “That’s what this vote is about. The truth. And what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”

According to the 8-page resolution — which was weighed in committee Wednesday night over a lengthy, often tense legislative session — the hearings will be led by the House Intelligence Committee and its chairman, Adam Schiff, a California Democrat. Historically, impeachment is a function of the House Judiciary Committee but since Schiff’s committee has purview over the intelligence community and the whistleblower complaint that triggered the inquiry came to him directly, it will remain under his leadership.

The House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight Committees have also participated in the last few weeks of closed-door depositions ahead of Thursday’s vote, and they will continue to have a hand in the inquiry moving forward.

So too will the House Ways and Means and House Financial Services committees, though their participation has drawn sharp rebuke from Republicans who argue Democrats are exploiting those committees’ powers, without need for their oversight, to obtain purportedly unrelated financial records from the president.

For questioning, the resolution permits 45-minute rounds for Schiff and Representative Devin Nunes, the Republican Party’s ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee. Lawmakers are entitled to pick staff members for questions. The ranking member has subpoena powers the power to invite witnesses for testimony, so long as he provides a detailed report on the relevance of any testimony he attempts to subpoena.

The committee would also have to take the ranking member’s request to a vote.

Schiff must issue a final report at the inquiry’s conclusion with recommendations before finally passing the baton to the House Judiciary Committee, the only committee in Congress with the authority to advance articles of impeachment to the Senate.

This story is developing…

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