The U.S. House voted on a resolution Thursday that formally begins an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, and western Pennsylvania congressmen -- like those almost everywhere else in the country -- voted along party lines.
The resolution authorizes House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to hold public hearings, and permits the president's lawyers to question witnesses. The Intel committee will then give its findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which will decide whether to introduce articles of impeachment.
“The impeachment inquiry so far has uncovered substantial evidence that the President abused the power of his office, undermined our democracy, and endangered our national security,” U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-18) said in a statement after voting yes. “I voted in favor of the resolution establishing ground rules for the next stages of the impeachment inquiry. I believe my Constitutional duty requires nothing less.”
U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-17) also voted for the resolution, but offered a more moderate take on the proceedings, focusing on the importance of establishing rules when outlining the inquiry’s procedures.
“I believe everyone benefits from clear rules, so I voted yes,” Lamb said in a statement. “I have not made any decision about impeachment, nor will I until all the evidence is in. I do believe that Russia is a major threat to the United States in Ukraine and around the world, and our oath requires us to put our country first, always.”
Lamb, who represents the moderate 17th Congressional District, has always been cautious when weighing in on the issue. He waited to back an impeachment inquiry until late September, long after a majority of House members signed on to an inquiry. Even so, he can expect criticism from the GOP, who has targeted his seat. Republican Sean Parnell, who declared his candidacy for the seat last night, accused Lamb of joining in a "sham impeachment," and in a tweet posted outside Lamb's district office warned, "Your time is limited."
There’s nothing in House rules or the Constitution that requires the House to formally vote on opening an impeachment inquiry. Thursday’s vote does weaken a Republican talking point which said the Democrat-led inquiry wasn’t following House rules -- though Republicans sounded unmoved.
“In voting for the impeachment resolution today, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats admitted that their impeachment inquiry into President Trump was illegitimate,” said U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-14). The new resolution, he said, “empowers [Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff, who has repeatedly lied to the American people, to continue to lock the public out of his secret meetings until he has enough cherry-picked details to fill a biased report.”
Reschenthaler is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which following Thursday’s resolution, which will ultimately determine whether to introduce articles of impeachment.
The resolution does permit continued closed-door interviews with witnesses, but it will also open up public hearings in the inquiry. In a statement announcing the resolution, Schiff and other Democratic committee leaders said that the House "has collected extensive evidence and testimony, and soon the Ameircan people will hear from witnesses in an open setting. ... [T]he next phase will mve from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the President's misconduct."
Even so, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16) echoed Reschenthaler’s disdain for Schiff and the inquiry.
“After more than a month of Adam Schiff’s secret hearings and selective leaking, the Do-Nothing-Democrats caved to pressure and tried to legitimize the unfair, hyper-partisan inquiry that is already underway,” Kelly said in a statement. “This resolution is a mirage – an attempt to create the perception of fairness, transparency, and due process."
Democratic leadership have yet to lay out a timeline for next steps, but have indicated they’d like to complete proceedings by the end of the year.