Democrats say they do not need a formal vote to begin impeachment proceedings. This actually contradicts their own precedents and modern practice in the House. I have talked to a number of Republican senators and all of them say this is one reason they will not treat impeachment seriously — the Democrats claim the President is outside the norm and now they are behaving the same way. Said one Republican Senator, “If they won’t respect the historic process, why should I respect their process?”
What is the historic process? They have a vote to refer impeachment to a committee.
They did it with Richard Nixon.
They did it with Judge Walter Nixon.
They did it with Alcee Hastings.
They did it with Judge Samuel Kent.
They did it with Judge Thomas Porteous.
They even did it with Bill Clinton.
This is the precedent in the House. The House’s own manual on practice and procedure says this is the modern practice. Democrats can say no one can tell them what to do, but by operating outside historic norms they are acting exactly as they claim Donald Trump is acting. In so doing, Trump is winning.
This also signals Democrats do not really have the votes. They are having to protect swing district members. They lack the support of the full house. They are going on a fishing expedition to try to make a case while ignoring their own historic process. Just as a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, Democrats can indict a ham sandwich if they drag it out long enough.
The Senate understands this.
If the goal is just to impeach the President for optics, this plays as a political stunt and absolutely helps the President while ensuring the Senate GOP never treats it seriously. If the goal is to actually remove the President from office, defying the historic norms of the House is a terrible way to begin and a great way to undermine the whole effort.
House Democrats are defying historic precedent and in so doing are handing the President a stick with which he can club them.