WASHINGTON (BP) — The U.S. House of Representatives’ nearly party-line vote Thursday (Oct. 31) in support of a presidential impeachment inquiry for only the fourth time in American history reflected the deep division in Congress and the country over the issue.
The House voted 232-196 for a resolution instructing committees to continue their investigations into whether evidence exits to impeach President Trump and establishing rules for the process. No Republican members voted for the resolution, while only two Democrats voted against it.
Republicans had criticized the probes being conducted by Democrat-controlled committees in closed hearings and without a vote from the full House authorizing such investigations. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had announced Sept. 24 she was instructing six panels to investigate the president for possible impeachment, but no action by the full chamber had been taken until the Oct. 31 roll call.
Some Democrats have long called for the impeachment of Trump for a variety of reasons since he took office in 2017, but the focus of the current inquiry is into a late July phone call between Trump and new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump appeared to encourage Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate to face the president next November, and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. In addition, Trump delayed the transfer of nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine before the call.
The inquiry could result in the following steps:
— A vote by the House Judiciary Committee on articles of impeachment;
— If articles are approved, the entire House would vote on impeachment, with only a majority required for passage;
— If the House impeaches the president, the Senate would hold a trial, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump from office.
A public opinion survey conducted Oct. 27-30 for The Washington Post and ABC News found 49 percent of Americans think Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent think he should not.
Impeachment inquiries have been held for three previous presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868; Richard Nixon in 1974; and Bill Clinton in 1998. Johnson and Clinton were impeached, but the Senate failed to convict either president. Johnson survived by only a vote. Nixon resigned before the Judiciary Committee sent articles of impeachment to the House.
At about the time of the Oct. 31 vote, Trump tweeted, “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History!”
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., a Southern Baptist, charged the Democratic leadership with conducting a “sham impeachment by impetuous fiat” for the purpose of overturning the 2016 election.
Pelosi, Walker said in a written statement, “handed the reins over to [Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff, allowing him to serve as a basement-dwelling judge, jury and executioner. Now, House Democrats, in an admission of their tainted and secretive impeachment process, are trying to retroactively legalize their injustices and hysterics.”
Schiff rejected GOP criticisms regarding the hearings conducted by the Intelligence Committee.
“The rules are very much the same as they were during the Nixon impeachment, during the Clinton impeachment,” he told “CBS Evening News,” according to a report by Political Bulletin. “The Republicans have been given the same amount of time to question witnesses as the Democrats. When we go to open hearings that will be the case, too. The American people will get to see both with the release of the transcripts.”
The only Democrats to oppose the resolution were Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey.