The following is an excerpt from Blaze Media’s daily Capitol Hill Brief email newsletter:
There’s a lot of buzz about the announced Thursday vote on new House Judiciary Committee procedures related to the committee’s impeachment probe into President Donald Trump, but how much of that buzz is warranted?
While committee chair Jerry Nadler calls this a “next step” in the impeachment process, the committee’s top Republican says that panel Democrats are “trying to pull a fast one” on voters by making the probe look more formal than it actually is. LevinTV host Mark Levin, a former chief of staff to a U.S. attorney general, says that Democrats are “trying to adopt committee rules to govern an ‘impeachment investigation’ the House hasn’t even authorized.”
As a 2019 Congressional Research Service report summarizes, the formal impeachment process actually begins with the vote of the full House chamber, which then sends the matter to the Judiciary Committee. However, the report continues, “standing committees, under their general investigatory authority, can seek information and research charges against officers prior to the approval of a resolution to authorize an impeachment investigation.” For example, when the House formally kicked off impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1998, it did so via a resolution that was reported out of the Judiciary Committee based on preliminary evidence gathered by independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation.
While a majority of Democrats may be on board with impeachment, a majority of the chamber still is not; without a majority of the chamber, a floor vote would do nothing more than split the majority and embarrass Democratic leadership.
So, despite all the noise currently being made, this resolution merely sets up a new set of rules for a preliminary investigation that will remain a preliminary investigation unless the full House says otherwise. Furthermore, whether or not the other two branches of the federal government decide to concede the level of deference that the legislative branch committee is asking for with these new procedures still remains to be seen.