The United States House of Representatives took a historic vote yesterday to move its impeachment inquiry into the next phase and into the public eye in what is only the fifth time a president will face a possible impeachment.
Unlike previous impeachment situations, the inquiry into President Donald J. Trump, who allegedly leveraged foreign aid and a White House meeting in an attempt to extract political dirt on his potential 2020 opponent former Vice President Joe Biden, split along party lines at 232-196. Only two Democrats from Trump-supporting districts voted against yesterday’s measure and no Republicans voted in the affirmative, with the exception of U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), who changed his party status to independent earlier this year.
Before the Ukraine scandal broke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the House was in the middle of an impeachment inquiry as it investigated other possible abuses of power by the president, but the inquiry took a turn and accelerated after the release of the whistleblower complaint that kicked off the Ukraine scandal.
The speaker assigned six House committees to investigate, with the intelligence committee chaired by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) doing most of the heavy lifting. The committees were holding closed-door depositions with people who had knowledge of the phone call the president had with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of the scandal along with any other information regarding efforts Trump and the people around him made to potentially run a shadow foreign policy for the president’s personal political gain.
The closed-door depositions are similar to grand jury proceedings and have been conducted in past impeachment inquiries, but yesterday’s resolution shows that House Democrats believe there is enough evidence to move the inquiry into the public domain before potentially drafting and voting on articles of impeachment.
New York’s representatives not only voted for the resolution yesterday but have been leading the push for impeachment, with some members directly involved in the investigative process.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn, Manhattan) is the most visible of the New York Democrats at the center of the inquiry because he chairs the judiciary committee, which is involved in this inquiry. Joining Nadler on that committee is U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens), who has been vocal about the need to impeach the president.
Another House committee assigned to handle the inquiry is the financial services committee, with New York members including U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), Nydia Velázquez (D-Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, The Bronx) and Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn), who is the vice chairwoman of the committee.
Following the recent death of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Mahoney now temporarily chairs the committee on government oversight and reform, whose members also include Ocasio-Cortez. Meeks is also on the committee on foreign affairs, along with U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan, the Bronx).
After yesterday’s vote, all of the New York Democrats had something to say about the resolution and what to expect as the inquiry moves forward and into public view, including U.S. Rep. Max Rose, who comes from the pro-Trump 11th Congressional District of New York that covers Staten Island and a small piece of southern Brooklyn. Rose was initially hesitant to support the impeachment inquiry but publicly backed it earlier this month.
“The president’s unprecedented obstruction in the face of credible allegations that he abused his office for personal gain has made this inquiry necessary,” Rose said in a statement, adding “If the administration had cooperated, we would not be here at this moment.” He said that this vote is all about moving the process into the public eye and continuing to assess the evidence “because that’s what my constituents expect and deserve.”
State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge, Staten Island), the establishment Republican candidate hoping to unseat Rose if she wins the Republican primary, pounced on the opportunity to tie Rose to Pelosi and impeachment. “Max Rose’s support of the impeachment resolution is another slap in the face for those who elected him to Congress,” she said in a statement, which also said “It’s fitting this vote took place on Halloween because since Max Rose moved to this district to run for office, he has been deceitfully tricking the voters, but today his mask completely comes off.”
The rest of the New York House Democrats were more free to support yesterday’s resolution and the inquiry as a whole because they represent heavily Democratic districts, with constituents who could have threatened a primary challenge to any Democrat who doesn’t support the inquiry.
Chairman Nadler spoke on the floor of the House yesterday and said “I support this resolution because I know we must overcome this difficult moment for the nation. This resolution is necessary to ensure that our constitutional order remains intact for future generations.” He also said “I support this resolution because we simply have no choice.”
Jeffries made a dramatic speech on the House floor yesterday that drew a round of applause from his Democratic colleagues after he explained that they were part of a coequal branch of government that was doing its job of oversight. “The founders didn’t want a king, they didn’t want a dictator, they didn’t want a monarch, they wanted a democracy and that is exactly what we are defending right now, no one is above the law,” he said.
In a press release, Velázquez explained what happened yesterday and why it was necessary to move to the next step of this impeachment process. “No one is above the law, not even the President,” she said in the press release. “That is why the House must continue this process. The Resolution we passed today provides a path forward for transparent, public hearings that will expose the truth to the American people.”
U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) has called for the president’s impeachment as far back as 2017, so her vote for the resolution yesterday came as no surprise. Back at home, she also faces an ever-growing field of ambitious primary challengers vying for her seat in New York’s Ninth Congressional District.
After the vote, Clarke wrote on Twitter “That’s a ‘yea’ vote from me. Today we are one step closer to Donald Trump’s impeachment. #ImpeachmentVote”
Maloney chided her Republican colleagues for backing the president instead of supporting further investigation and hearings into his potential wrongdoings. In a statement released after the vote yesterday, she said “Today, my Republican colleagues had the opportunity to cast their vote on the House floor. Unfortunately, they decided against honoring their promise to protect and defend their Constitution.”
She also criticized House Republicans for attacking the impeachment process and voting no on yesterday’s resolution, even though they wanted the proceedings to be public. “This resolution sets forth the process for public hearings, so my Republican colleagues should have supported it,” Maloney said in a statement.
The first public hearings could happen later this month, and the House speaker said there is no deadline for the inquiry to conclude.