U.S. Rep. John Katko joined other Republicans in opposing a resolution approved by the House of Representatives Thursday to establish rules for the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
The House, by a 231-196 vote, passed the resolution along party lines. There were a pair of Democrats who joined with Republicans to oppose the rules.
The measure details the process for advancing the impeachment inquiry, which is examining Trump's exchange with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and whether he withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate for president.
Democrats argue that alleged conduct could rise to an impeachable offense because seeking foreign help in a political campaign is illegal. Katko, R-Camillus, doesn't believe Trump's actions warrant impeachment.
"Impeachment must clear a very high bar to be justifiable. The facts of the investigation, its timing and its methodology do not clear that bar," Katko, a former federal prosecutor, said Thursday. "We are less than a year away from a presidential election where every American — not just a select few in Congress — will have a chance to render judgment of the president."
Following passage of the rules, the House Intelligence Committee will hold public hearings related to the impeachment inquiry and issue a report outlining its findings and recommendations. The House Judiciary Committee will be tasked with acting on the recommendations, including issuing articles of impeachment against the president.
The committees assigned to the impeachment inquiry have been interviewing witnesses in a private setting. Republicans have been critical of the closed proceedings, even though some GOP members have participated in the sessions.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican and ranking member of the House Rules Committee, said during a House floor debate on the resolution that the impeachment inquiry hasn't been a fair process.
"It was preordained from the beginning," he said.
However, Democrats believe the impeachment process is necessary due to Trump's actions. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a "solemn occasion" and noted that the intent of the resolution is to provide a process for "effective public hearings."
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat who chairs the House Rules Committee, described the vote as a sad moment for the United States.
"If we don't hold this president accountable, we could be ceding our ability to hold any president accountable," he said.
Trump's alleged conduct was revealed in a whistleblower complaint to the Intelligence Community's inspector general, which was eventually forwarded to Congress. While the whistleblower didn't hear Trump's call with Zelensky, they received details about the call from individuals with knowledge of the exchange.
Many Republicans, including Katko, have used that revelation to describe the information as "hearsay" or "second-hand." But a memo summarizing the call that was released by the White House confirms the information outlined in the whisteblower's complaint.
Katko also views the impeachment inquiry as a distraction from addressing job creation, economic growth and reducing health care costs.
"Instead, Nancy Pelosi has decided to turn a blind eye on the economy and a host of other issues to pursue impeachment less than a year before a presidential election," he said.
According to Congress.gov, the House has 349 bills this year. But most of the bills haven't received a vote in the Republican-led Senate.
Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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