WASHINGTON — U.S. House Democrats edged closer to Thursday to launching formal impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-17 along party lines to adopt a resolution laying out procedures for an impeachment investigation in the committee.
Five Michigan members of the U.S. House have come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township. was the lone House Republican to endorse an impeachment inquiry, but he left the GOP in July, declaring himself an independent.
Four Michigan House Democrats back hearings, including U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, who has been calling for the president’s impeachment since she was sworn in back in January. The other Democrats are: U.S. Reps. Andy Levin of Bloomfield Twp., Brenda Lawrence of Southfield and Dan Kildee of Flint.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) also has come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry.
No members of Michigan’s congressional delegation are on the House Judiciary Committee.
The vote came after two hours of heated debate over Democrats’ motivations. The committee’s Democratic leadership insisted lawmakers are moving cautiously and responsibly before deciding whether to formally recommend articles of impeachment.
“This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump,” said U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).
Nadler stressed that the committee’s investigation will go beyond charges that Trump obstructed justice during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. Democrats also intend to investigate allegations of “federal election crimes, self dealing, violations of the constitution’s emoluments clause and a failure to defend our nation from current and future attacks by foreign adversaries,” Nadler said.
More than half of the U.S. House Democrats have said they support moving ahead with a formal impeachment inquiry, according to a New York Times review.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee accused their colleagues of tip-toeing around launching impeachment proceedings, an issue that divides the Democratic caucus and that some moderate members fear could hurt the party’s messaging heading into 2020.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former Judiciary Committee chairman who was a floor manager in the Senate impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton, scolded committee Democrats for pursuing an impeachment investigation against Trump.
“You haven’t gotten enough evidence to convince a majority of the House of Representatives to even authorize an impeachment inquiry and that’s probably why the committee hasn’t gone to the floor to ask for one,” he said. “The votes aren’t there.”
One of Trump’s biggest defenders, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said of the effort, “I don’t know quite what to call this … I’ve called it impeachment in drag, because we’ve sort of dressed up impeachment like an oversight hearing. Perhaps it’s low ‘T’ impeachment, or low energy impeachment.”
Committee Democrats shrugged off their colleagues’ criticisms about semantics and procedure.
“Yes, we are in an impeachment investigation,” said U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.). “Have you not been reading the proceedings? I don’t think there’s a question. It’s an investigation.”
Some have labeled the process an impeachment inquiry; others call it an impeachment investigation.
“There’s no legal difference between these terms and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” Nadler said.
“The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat and we are doing so.”
Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.