Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee took a major step in pursuing impeachment of President Donald Trump Thursday by passing a resolution that sets guidelines for future possible hearings on an impeachment investigation.
The resolution passed 24-17 along party lines, with Democrats passing the measure and Republicans slamming the move as politically motivated.
“Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a press conference announcing the guidelines on Capitol Hill.
House Republicans were quick to condemn the measure, calling it a political stunt likely to go nowhere.
“Today’s vote in the Judiciary Committee meant absolutely nothing,” wrote House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Twitter. “Just like this Dem majority has accomplished nothing. It’s an imaginary impeachment dreamed up by Nadler.”
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, called the vote a “stunt” and a “trick.”
While 135 Democrats plus one independent have come out in support of impeachment, some Democrats remain hesitant, many of whom come from swing districts with little appetite for ousting the president through legislative proceedings.
“I think the American people aren’t there on the issue of impeachment… I would vote no on impeachment,” freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) told CNN.
“I don’t think we’ve made the case to the American people that we need to yet, so to the extent they think they can do that, I’ve been supporting them doing that,” said another freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also held back on endorsing impeachment, cutting her weekly press conference short and walking out on reporters when asked about the proceedings in the Judiciary Committee.
“I’m not answering any more questions about a possible inquiry, investigation, and the rest,” she told reporters, according to the Washington Examiner.
On impeachment, Pelosi has struggled to contain her caucus. While she has said publicly that she supports Nadler’s work on the issue, she has also stopped short of endorsing impeachment and has called the move “divisive,” as reported by the Examiner.
With the 2020 presidential election well-underway, impeachment hearings in the House could take months and the entire process could go well into the general election campaign season, if not past election day.
Many Democrats hesitating to support Trump’s impeachment hail from moderate and swing districts with constituents opposed to the extreme measure, putting the Democratic majority in the House at risk if its members move too aggressively in pushing to remove the president from office.