On Thursday morning, the House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution introduced by Chairman Jerry Nadler laying the groundwork for an impeachment investigation into Donald Trump. Several Democrats said bluntly during the resolution proceedings that this means that the House Judiciary is engaged in impeachment proceedings. However, technically the resolution only laid out the guidelines under which such an investigation would occur.
Throughout the morning, Republicans insisted that it’s against the rules for Judiciary to begin such an inquiry without a vote. But after a series of Republican resolutions were raised and voted down, Nadler’s resolution was passed along party lines.
Republicans forced a vote on an amendment from Republican Rep. Ken Buck that would have disallowed testimony and hearings conducted by subcommittees. That amendment was voted down along party lines.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz then introduced an amendment in an attempt to stop Nadler from having witnesses questioned by staff members—a practice that in the past has yielded a great deal more information than the made-for-TV five-minute back-and-forth that happens when witnesses are brought directly before a committee. That amendment also lost on a voice vote.
Buck was then back with an amendment that appeared to be a nitpick—changing a mention of Trump’s attempts to “thwart” justice into a strict application of specific rules on obstruction. Nadler correctly pointed out that impeachable offenses need not be a crime, and crimes are not necessarily impeachable offenses. That amendment was also voted down.
At that point, there was finally a vote on Nadler’s resolution to conduct an investigation. That resolution passed along strict party lines by a vote of 24 to 17, with some Republicans not present.
Because these were Republican amendments, almost all those who spoke during the session were Republicans who rose to support one of the amendments, either to argue that the whole idea was against the rules, or that only members of Congress should be allowed to ask questions of witnesses.
In the midst of the debate over Gaetz’s amendment, Republican Andy Biggs began talking about the possibility that Nadler was introducing impeachment because he was facing a potential primary challenge from the left. That accusation is a clear violation of House rules about impugning the motives of another representative, and Biggs retreated behind claims that he was just “reading the title of an article,” and then kept on talking about it.
A series of Republican representatives tried to derail the hearing, insisting that there must first be a vote of the full House and saying that the committee should instead be investigating people such as James Comey. Nadler deftly went through the history of the committee—showing how Republican majorities had done exactly what they were now claiming was against the rules, repeatedly.