WASHINGTON DC (NBC NEWS) – Signaling that Democrats won’t cave to GOP demands, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the House will not hold a formal floor vote on their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump “at this time.”
“There is no requirement that we have a vote. So at this time, we will not be having a vote,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill after a brief closed-door Democratic caucus meeting. “And I’m very pleased with the thoughtfulness of our caucus in terms of being supportive of the path that we are on in terms of fairness, in terms of seeking the truth, in terms of upholding the Constitution of the United States.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who joined her at the news conference, echoed her remarks and said that the Constitution is “very clear” that an initial vote is not required.
The White House and congressional Republicans have demanded that Pelosi hold a formal vote on the House floor to initiate the impeachment investigation.
The White House recently announced its opposition to the inquiry, calling it invalid and stating that it wouldn’t comply with Democrats’ requests and subpoenas until they hold a formal vote. Democrats, meanwhile, have said that since the White House has no track record of cooperating with previous oversight requests, holding a floor vote isn’t likely to change the administration’s approach.
Republicans have said that a formal impeachment vote on the floor would potentially give GOP members more influence in the process, such as subpoena power that the minority party doesn’t normally have in the House.
A number of Republicans who have attended closed-door depositions with key witnesses in the impeachment investigation have complained that Democrats were inhibiting their ability to ask questions.
Schiff, however, said Tuesday night that “Republicans have been completely represented” and that time for questions has been equally divided between both sides, with mostly staff asking questions.
“We go until the questions are exhausted. They get to ask any questions they want,” he said.
Ahead of Pelosi’s comments Tuesday, NBC News reported that House Democratic leaders had been reaching out to rank-and-file lawmakers in swing districts to gauge their support for an official vote to open an impeachment inquiry, two sources said.
Pelosi had repeatedly argued for weeks that an impeachment inquiry vote was not necessary because it is not required by the Constitution and because an overwhelming majority of Democrats are already on board with the impeachment probe.
As of last week, 227 House Democrats, nearly the entire 235-member caucus, support the impeachment inquiry, including many vulnerable members who flipped previously solid red districts last year.
Over the last two weeks while most lawmakers were back in their congressional districts, staff and members on the House Intelligence Committee, as well as the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, have been questioning key witnesses behind closed doors.
During the recess, the witnesses who testified included several current and former American diplomats such as former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker; former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; former Russia adviser to Trump, Fiona Hill; and deputy assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent.
Asked why Democrats are conducting these interviews in private, Schiff said that in all of the previous impeachment investigations — from Watergate to President Bill Clinton — there was an independent counsel or prosecutor doing the initial investigative work, all of which was done behind closed doors.
Schiff said Tuesday that he anticipates a time when they will release the transcripts of the depositions and they may call back some of those witnesses to testify in public. He said they may also call other witnesses to testify in open session, as well.
Schiff also addressed the administration’s ongoing efforts to stonewall Congress, such as the White House Office of Management and Budget Office’s announcement earlier Tuesday that it will not comply with subpoenas from House impeachment investigators.
“The evidence of obstruction of Congress continues to mount,” Schiff said.