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The House will vote on Thursday on the Democrats' impeachment inquiry

Posted at 3:47 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 17:22:21-04

(CNN) -- The House will vote this week to formalize the procedures of its impeachment inquiryinto President Donald Trump, a step that comes after pressure from Republicansto hold a vote but will also undercut a key White House talking point.

The Thursday vote will be the first time the House goes on the record to vote on the impeachment inquiry, potentially putting Democrats from Republican-leaning districts in a difficult position politically.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders had considered and decided against holding a formal vote to authorize the inquiry earlier this month, in part due to concerns expressed by moderates in their caucus. While Democrats argue this isn't a formal vote on the inquiry, Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers Monday that the House would move forward with the vote on procedures "to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives."

"This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the President and his Counsel," Pelosi wrote.

Democratic sources say the resolution was necessary to set forth the exact procedures to transfer evidence from House Intelligence Committee over to the House Judiciary Committee — and to detail the procedures for holding public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.

It is not officially a vote to authorize the inquiry, the Democratic sources say, although they will argue that the White House will have no grounds to resist their subpoenas after this vote establishes the procedures as they head into the next steps.

Still, Pelosi had previously said that she didn't need to hold a vote on the impeachment inquiry at all, calling it a "Republican talking point."

"There's no requirement that we have a vote so at this time we will not be having a vote and I'm very pleased with the thoughtfulness of our caucus with the path that we are on," Pelosi said on October 15. "We're not here to call bluffs. We're here to find the truth, to uphold the Constitution of the United States."

But the vote will help Democrats push back on the Republican argument that Democrats are running an illegitimate impeachment inquiry behind closed doors. GOP lawmakers have repeatedly attacked Democrats for failing to vote on the inquiry, while the White House has argued it does not need to cooperate as a because the investigation is illegitimate.

House Republicans criticized Democrats' plan to hold a vote, continuing their attack on the process of the impeachment investigation.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted Monday that "it's been 34 days since Nancy Pelosi unilaterally declared her impeachment inquiry."

"Today's backtracking is an admission that this process has been botched from the start," McCarthy, a Republican from California, wrote in his tweet. "We will not legitimize the Schiff/Pelosi sham impeachment."

GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, added on Twitter: "House Democrats now suddenly saying they'll vote on an impeachment resolution to 'ensure transparency' is rich—considering they've spent weeks conducting interviews in secret, leaking their own talking points while locking down any and all information that benefits the President."

The Republican argument hadn't stopped many Trump administration officials from testifying under subpoena, but on Monday former National Security Council official Charles Kupperman defied a subpoenaafter he filed a lawsuit Friday asking the courts to intervene and decide whether he had to comply with the subpoena.

"Given the issue of separation of powers in this matter, it would be reasonable and appropriate to expect that all parties would want judicial clarity," Kupperman said in a statement Monday.

It's not clear whether the vote signals that the Democrats are close to moving into the public phase of the impeachment inquiry, although public hearings could begin later this month.

Schiff declined to say whether the resolution signaled that closed-door depositions were closed to being completed. The three committees leading the impeachment investigation have depositions scheduled through this week, and three more officials who have been subpoenaed are slated to appear next week, although it's unclear whether any of them will do so.

"We still have further depositions to do, and I don't want to be committed to a particular timetable, but we are moving with all expedition," Schiff told reporters.

The House impeachment resolution is being introduced by the House Rules Committee, which will mark up the measure on Wednesday before the Thursday floor vote.

"This is the right thing to do for the institution and the American people," House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement.