When the House reconvenes next week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi might be forced by members of her own party to call for a vote by the full House on an impeachment inquiry. To date, Pelosi has resisted holding a vote by the House, largely because she was unsure whether the measure would pass.
But in the last couple of weeks, several Democrats who had been sitting on the fence about impeachment have come on board, giving Pelosi the chance to do what she should have done in the first place: get the full House to authorize an inquiry.
Progressive Democrats are ramping up demands for an official floor vote to open an impeachment inquiry now that President Trump has dared them to go on the record.
“I think it’s time for us to put a vote on the floor, a resolution for the inquiry structured in such a way that it can move forward with full power of the Congress behind it,” Rep. John Garamendi of California told CNN this week.
It had been an open question what kind of authority the various House committees looking into impeachment had been operating under. While a committee’s mandate to investigate can be broad, it’s not unlimited — especially when it comes to a constitutional question like impeachment.
The White House has based some of its justification for not cooperating with the committee based on the House’s failure to hold a vote authorizing an inquiry.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone last week warned House Democrats the Trump administration will not cooperate with a House impeachment probe unless it is sanctioned by a floor vote.
“In the history of our nation, the House of Representatives has never attempted to launch an impeachment inquiry against the President without a majority of the House taking political accountability for that decision by voting to authorize such a dramatic constitutional step,” Cipollone wrote.
Another reason Pelosi had been reluctant to hold a vote on the inquiry was that it would expose the wholly partisan nature of the investigation. Democrats know that the country is closely divided on the impeachment issue and they also know that the chances of Trump being convicted in the Senate are practically nil. For Democrats not to end up being involved in an electoral disaster, they are going to have to convince a lot more Republicans and independents that Trump has to go. As it stands now, they would be committing suicide by impeaching Trump without even majority support among voters.
The inquiries will grind on regardless of whether or not Pelosi green-lights a vote. The need of Democrats to exact their pound of flesh from a president they viscerally hate will override everything else — their duty, their careers, and especially, their common sense.