Another View: History now watching as Congress continues impeachment probe

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Thursday's vote was a defining moment for every member of the divided U.S. House of Representatives. The approved legislation formally authorizes and articulates guidelines for the next phase of the House's impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

History was watching, especially taking note of the votes cast by Republican members of Congress.

The 232-196 vote, which hewed closely to party lines, was likely to fuel the partisan fighting that has accompanied every stage of the impeachment inquiry and much of the Trump presidency. Nearly all Democrats backed the resolution, and House Republicans, who spent weeks clamoring for such a vote, unanimously opposed it.

Two Democrats — Reps. Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, and Jeff Van Drew, of New Jersey, who represent Republican-leaning districts — opposed the resolution.

Rep. Joe Cunningham, of South Carolina, one of the few Trump-district Democrats who has been reluctant about backing an impeachment inquiry, voted yes.

But this vote signaled that Democrats are on course to bring charges against the president later this year. At issue is whether Trump abused the power of his office to pressure a foreign leader to investigate his domestic political rivals.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, described the impeachment inquiry as a "solemn" and "prayerful" process — "not cause for any glee or comfort."

At the same time, in a floor speech, Pelosi asserted, "I don't know why Republicans are afraid of the truth. Every member should support the American people hearing the facts for themselves.

"That is what this vote is about. It's about the truth. And what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy."

She is not wrong.

Republicans seem intent on casting a vote for party over a vote for their country. Yesterday marked the first time that many members were placed on the record, putting them on the right — or wrong — side of history (regardless of where you come down on the issue).

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Some would argue that to cast a vote to stop the impeachment inquiry and ignore the testimony and evidence amassed already would be to condone the abuse of power by President Trump.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, called the impeachment inquiry "an attempt to undo the last election" and "an attempt to influence the next one as well."

At the same time as the impeachment inquiry, House investigators heard testimony from Timothy Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, who was expected to corroborate testimony from a senior U.S. diplomat who gave the most detailed account of the alleged quid pro quo.

The House's resolution allows the president and his counsel to request and query witnesses and participate in impeachment proceedings once they reach the Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with writing any articles of impeachment that will be voted on by the House. It also authorizes the House Intelligence Committee to release transcripts of its closed-door depositions to the public, and it directs the committee to write and then release a report on that investigation in the same fashion.

The resolution gives the Republican minority on both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees a chance to subpoena documents and testimony — provided that either the Democratic chairman or a majority of the committee agrees. And it establishes special procedures under which the chairman and top Republican on the panel can take up to 90 minutes to make their cases or defer to a staff lawyer to do so.

Before the roll call, partisan tensions were visible on the floor of the House, as Democrats called attention to mounting evidence against Trump, while Republicans decried the process as secretive and unfair.

Thursday's vote gives us heart that democracy is still at work. It prepares the way for every member of this Congress to ultimately go on record as to whether it is acceptable for an American president to seek help from a foreign government to win an election.

The choice is transparent now. House members face a choice: To take a stand upholding the integrity of our elections against abuses of presidential power or enter history as apologists for this president's unconscionable behavior.

"This moment calls for more than politics," said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, of Massachusetts. "If we don't hold this president accountable, we will be ceding our ability to hold any president accountable."

And history will be watching.

— The Rutland Herald, Nov. 1


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