The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday took its first vote on moving forward with impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
In a 24-17 party line vote, the Democrat-controlled committee approved a resolution that sets out the rules of the panel's impeachment investigation. The vote does not launch a formal impeachment inquiry, but it does broaden the committee's investigative powers and lays out parameters for a full-fledged impeachment.
"This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). "Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature."
"But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so," he said.
Under the resolution, the committee will be able to "designate certain hearings as part of the continuing investigation. It also gives committee lawyers the chance to question witnesses for an hour after all lawmakers have asked questions, and gives the White House counsel a chance to respond in writing to information presented to the panel," the Wall Street Journal reports.
The vote came after two hours of testy debate in which House Democrats sought to define the parameters of the committee's probe, with Nadler calling it an impeachment inquiry, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others use different terms. Democrats have been walking a tightrope of late, with some members saying they are moving full throttle toward impeachment while others say no such thing is happening.
Republicans mocked the latest move.
"Democrats followed the yellow brick road, and now they're fully lost in impeachment Oz," said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "Try as they might, they can't find their way out of the mess they've made because they think words don't matter."
"All along they thought people were coming along with them and that the public was happy with this and other members of their own party were happy with this, but somewhere down the yellow brick road they looked around and said 'there’s not all of us here, people aren't following anymore,'" he said.
Calling the committee "a giant Instagram filter," Collins said Nadler wants "the appearance of something that it's not,"adding that the new move grants the chairman powers he already has.
"The difference between formal impeachment proceedings and what we're doing today is a world apart no matter what the chairman just said," Collins said, adding, "The chairman can do this at any time, because he wants the appearance of something that it's not. You're not in an impeachment inquiry."
Some Democrats from moderate districts were not pleased.
"It's sucking the air out of all of the good stuff we’re doing," Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), who flipped her seat from Republican control last year.
But other Democrats are happy to be widening probes into Trump — including Pelosi. Asked if she approved of Nadler's move, she said: "Yes, I do," before muddying the waters again.
"I think you should characterize it for what it is, it's a continuation of what we have been doing," she said. "You know we all work together on these things."
At least 135 House members now support an impeachment inquiry, including 17 members of the Judiciary Committee, Fox News reports.