Impeachment is important and not a laughing matter. But members of Congress seem to think it’s just another occasion for a political stunt.
Last week, we saw Republican members of Congress bumrush a room where House committees were scheduled to interview Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, under subpoena, as a part of the impeachment inquiry.
Let’s emphasize that again: inquiry. This is a stage in the impeachment process. Though it isn’t likely in this instance, the House could inquire, collect information and interview then decide not to proceed. We know enough to know that Democrats aren’t likely to stop after an inquiry.
Still, to respond to the president's criticisms, a House vote authorizing the inquiry is anticipated this week.
There’s a reason the hearing room is called the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. This SCIF — yes, that’s the term they use — is intentionally off-limits to House members’ and staff cellphones and other electronics so our representatives can have frank, honest and open comments, debates, discussions and questions without cameras, microphones, video or foreign nations listening.
U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, of Jefferson Parish, helped engineer a temporary shut down because the Democrats are leading this inquiry into Trump and his administration’s Ukraine dealings as a part of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and Scalise called it a “Soviet-style” investigation in a “secret room.” But Scalise is smart enough to know this “secret room” is open to appropriately credentialed Democrats and Republicans and their authorized staffers.
Scalise knows that House rules say that only members of three key impeachment inquiry committees — Oversight and Reform; Intelligence; and Foreign Affairs — can be a part of these closed-door sessions. To declare that the four dozen Republican members of those committees can't hold up the GOP side in the questioning is an implicit criticism of their abilities. One of them is Scalise's Louisiana colleague Clay Higgins of Port Barre.
That’s why this move was childish and immature.
While the Republican stunt was regrettable, Democrats invited skepticism of their impeachment process. They avoided a vote to authorize impeachment inquiries, which would build confidence and force members to take a stand. Speaker Nancy Pelosi now promises such a vote.
Democrats have promised to release transcripts of what they learn, as long as it doesn’t hurt their investigation. They should hold an official vote, put all House members on the record and provide the transcripts.
Even consideration of the removal of a president of the United States is a very serious matter. Voters deserve better from both parties.