As House Democrats find themselves once more navigating the tricky politics of impeachment, a new idea is being floated: creating a select panel of members that would handle those responsibilities.
A senior Democratic aide tells The Daily Beast that the idea of a select panel has “been raised by some members” as a way to consolidate impeachment proceedings around Donald Trump.
“No decisions have been made,” the aide said. “We understand some members may endorse this publicly. The caucus will make these decisions.”
Though talk of impeachment has ramped up after reports that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate business dealings involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, the idea of a special committee to handle an impeachment inquiry has been floating on Capitol Hill in earnest since at least July, according to one House Democratic aide.
One senior pro-impeachment Democratic operative said the idea of a select panel “had merit” in that it would mark an aggressive step forward for the party while potentially giving some distance to those Democratic members on the Judiciary Committee and elsewhere who remain uncomfortable with forcing the matter. Under House rules, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have power to appoint not only the chair of a select committee but its members, as well.
But the move also comes with some risks. Among them, it is unclear who might be the chair of a special committee—but it would not necessarily be Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), whose committee has historically wielded Congress’ authority to impeach. Nadler would likely fight any effort to limit his jurisdiction, of which a select committee would be one.
Select committees on impeachment have been used differently through history; they may investigate impeachment and then also draft articles, or they may only do one of those things. Establishing a select committee is not a necessary part of the impeachment process, however.
The idea, for now, appears to remain in early discussion stages. One senior Democratic lawmaker said on Monday morning he had not heard of the idea. When news rumors began to surface on its consideration later that evening, the lawmaker replied: “Not surprised. Should be an interesting week.”
The House Democrat leadership is set to meet on Tuesday, at which point it will almost certainly discuss how to proceed on the issue of Trump’s pressuring of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. The president has been unapologetic about tying military aid to the country to anti-corruption efforts there. But his administration has also declined to release a whistleblower complaint on the matter. Several Democrats on Monday said that if the White House blocked Thursday’s testimony from the Director of National Intelligence, it would force them to fully embrace pursuing articles of impeachment. Others, including close Pelosi ally Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) announced their support for impeachment proceedings.
Pelosi herself is reported to be sounding out lawmakers on the matter of impeachment and has issued a warning to Trump that if he fails to be forthcoming about the whistleblower complaint there could be severe political consequences.
“If the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” she said in a statement.