Capitolworks: Just the Facts...The Significance of the Court Case Prompting Yesterday's Impeachment Resolution.

November 1, 2019

Impeachment. It seems that everywhere we turn, we hear that word. While many news outlets and blogs like ours have written about the process of impeachment, there appears to be much less attention paid to the Federal District Court's decision last week about the legality of House proceedings.  While overlooked, perhaps, the Court's ruling is actually rather significant to the impeachment process moving forward. Additionally, the House voted on a resolution that would make the rest of the pre-impeachment proceedings public. However, this is not a required part of the process, so we must ask the questions, what impact does the Court's decision have, and why would the House take the time to hold a vote on something that is actually unnecessary? Let's take a deeper dive into these two actions and see what we can learn.

 

One of the major talking points from the White House and Republican members of Congress centers on framing current House proceedings as an unfair, non-institutional part of impeachment. They believe that the lack of transparency in the proceedings held thus far violates the law of proper House conduct––hence the Court proceedings.

 

In response to the White House challenge, the Court ruled that such preliminary investigations are legal and explicitly stated that no further action from the House was necessary to carry out this initial phase. With this legal win, the House could have continued their process without changing a thing- for a while. Instead, they decided to vote on a resolution that would require these initial stages of the process to be more transparent and available to the public. This action signals a significant shift in the Democrats' strategy. Essentially, this vote was a public declaration of escalating the preliminary investigation.

 

Despite these changes imposed upon the House by their resolution, the move does not signify an official start to impeachment proceedings. The change does signify that Democrats are becoming convinced that they have growing public approval behind starting a formal impeachment process. Additionally, by making the remaining hearings and information gathering more open, the Democrats can only hope that this "transparency" will lead to an even stronger public response and therefore increased legitimacy, to formalize the process. Finally, and indeed no less important, the Democrats have effectively taken away one of the White House's main talking points- that the process is not legal- by using the resolution to highlight their process "as fair and as transparent as possible." 

 

It seems as though the Democrats are on-board with their party leadership, passing the resolution quickly on Thursday morning with a 232-196 vote- all Republicans and two Democrats opposed. As the new public proceedings commence and the White House continues to develop their defense strategy, only time will tell how strong these divisions between the parties and within each caucus will remain to be seen. 

 

*Contributing Author: Madeline Roth

 

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