A few weeks ago, Election Central examined the reasons why Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders didn’t want to call for a full House vote on the impeachment process, despite the Republican call for it. Last Monday, however, Pelosi and the Democrats agreed to go ahead with the vote, which took place Thursday. (Spoiler: it passed.) So why the sudden change of heart? Here, Election Central takes a closer look at the reasons behind the switch, and what impact the vote could have on the impeachment process.
Up until now, the White House has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry because there hadn’t been a full, official House vote on it yet. The administration claimed that the inquiry was unauthorized and that proceeding any further without a vote meant that the process wasn’t legitimate. (It’s important to note that no full House vote is required by the Constitution. However, one took place at the start of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.)
To be clear, because a vote wasn’t required, the process could have gone forward with or without one. But what the vote does is formalize the proceedings. In other words, it lays out the terms and processes for how public hearings, evidence transfers, depositions, and other proceedings will happen.
It was also significant because it required Democrats to commit to the impeachment inquiry on the record. The measure passed 232-196, with zero Republicans supporting it. Two Democrats also voted against it.
So now that the full House vote has passed, are Republicans and the White House on board with cooperating with the proceedings? In a word . . . no. Lead Republicans still insist that the impeachment process isn’t legitimate and that it ignores President Trump’s right to due process. Some continue to say that the president did nothing wrong and was within his rights when he tried to convince Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Others admit that what Trump did wasn’t exactly right, but that he shouldn’t be impeached for it.
The House plans to finish its part of the inquiry by the end of the year–which leaves them about two more weeks to reach a conclusion. If the House approves any article of impeachment, then it moves to the Senate, where a trial will take place. This will likely happen almost immediately. It’s uncertain how long the trial in the Senate will last, but it could take several weeks. Top legislators say they would like to complete the trial before the 2020 election season officially begins.
But Speaker Pelosi has only committed to the inquiry, not to the impeachment itself, which some political experts see as the Democrats taking a step back, despite the outcome of the vote. This could be because the Senate is controlled by Republicans, specifically by Trump allies like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It is not at all certain that there are enough Senators willing to break with the Republican majority to vote for a conviction.