After a month of private hearings and public meltdowns, it finally happened: The House held a floor vote on its impeachment inquiry. Today’s vote affirms its investigation and establishes rules for future public hearings that may lead to a vote on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump that will then launch a trial in the Senate.
So what’s the big fuss about? A lot, actually.
Who voted which way?
As expected, all three Nevada Democrats in the House voted for the impeachment inquiry resolution. Minutes after the House floor vote, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) released a statement and declared, “Donald Trump endangered our national security and undermined our elections by pressuring a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election. […] Today I voted to let the American people hear for themselves the extent of President Trump’s abuse of power.”
In addition, Reps. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) and Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) voted for the resolution, about a month after both swing district Democrats publicly endorsed opening a formal impeachment inquiry. Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-New Jersey) and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) were the only Democrats to vote against continuing the impeachment inquiry, while Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) voted for the resolution.
For the last month, reporters and pundits have been watching Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) as he’s gone back and forth between suggesting he’d support the inquiry and re-upping his support for Trump. Today he fell on the side of Trump, as he voted with all other Republicans against it.
Why did it finally happen today?
Republicans have alternated between declaring victory for forcing a floor vote and dismissing today’s vote as “too little, too late”. Long story short, the Trump administration has argued in federal court that the House’s impeachment inquiry is illegitimate because there hadn’t been a floor vote. Federal trial courts have thus far affirmed the legality of the House’s impeachment inquiry and ordered the White House to comply with their requests and subpoenas, but the D.C. Court of Appeals have stayed the orders to comply pending Trump’s appeals, appeals that will likely eventually make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since it’s unlikely the courts will grind impeachment to a halt (even if Trump’s lawyers manage to gum up the works), the more relevant outcome of today’s vote may be its setting of ground rules going forward. Most notably this resolution authorizes the House Intelligence Committee, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), to hold public hearings following the closed-doors investigation they’ve already been leading. Schiff will then write a final report on his committee’s findings to go to the Judiciary Committee, which will then have the option to write articles of impeachment to send to the full House.
This will almost certainly happen by the end of the year, but this timing may impact the other national story that also happens to make plenty of local news.
What does this mean for us… and that caucus that seems to matter so much?
House Democratic leaders originally expected to wrap up their impeachment inquiry before Thanksgiving, but the ongoing torrent of evidence being collected by the House Intelligence Committee (and investigated and reported to the public by numerous journalists) has led to a protracted inquiry that may not result in a final House floor vote on articles of impeachment until December.
If this new, extended timeline holds, then we may see a Senate impeachment trial next January that extends into February. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has already suggested he’ll impose a sort of gag order on the entire Senate during the trial, as all Senators will be required to participate as jurors for the entire trial. Unless McConnell allows for a drastic last-minute rules change (which is incredibly unlikely), this means Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Kamala Harris (D-California), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) may be ordered to stay off the campaign trail during the final weeks before the Iowa Caucus, the New Hampshire Primary, and our own Nevada Caucus.
On the flip side, this may be a prime opportunity for the non-Senators running for president, particularly former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, as they’ll mostly have the campaign trail here in Nevada and elsewhere to themselves if all the Senators are ordered to stay in Congress for the impeachment trial early next year. Perhaps some of the Senators are developing contingency plans for their required absence from campaign events, but it probably won’t be easy for them to campaign in absentia while Biden and Buttigieg are free to sound off as they please and meet as many voters as they need.
But alas, now that Congress is finally taking on the transnational crisis that reaches deep inside the White House, the next presidential election may ultimately be decided upon how Congress addresses the leftover problems from the last presidential election.