By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The House of Representatives voted largely along party lines Thursday to formalize its impeachment investigation into U.S. President Donald Trump, taking one of the most significant steps in the process to date.
The 232-196 vote saw two Democrats join ranks with all of the chamber's 194 Republicans in opposing the resolution. Independent congressman Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party in May amid disagreements with leadership, threw his support behind the formalization vote.
"What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of the vote, calling impeachment a "solemn" issue that is "not cause for any glee or comfort."
Republicans had long pushed for such a vote to put their colleagues on the record regarding impeachment.
The resolution contains the set of rules that will govern future proceedings as the chamber continues its inquiry. In a pushback against Republican charges of a lack of transparency, the measure moves future hearings into the nationally-televised spotlight and authorizes the release of hearing transcripts to the public.
Trump and his counsel would also be allowed to participate in the proceedings, affording them the ability to request witnesses.
"I don't know why Republicans are afraid of the truth. Every member should support allowing the American people to hear the facts for themselves. That is really what this vote is about," said Pelosi.
Central to the ongoing impeachment probe is whether Trump abused the power of his office in soliciting the assistance of a foreign leader in investigating a prominent political rival heading into the 2020 election.
During a July 25 telephone call, Trump repeatedly petitioned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a corruption probe into former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, on uncorroborated claims.
The elder Biden is a leading Democratic nominee heading into next year's White House race.
Shortly after the vote, the White House lashed out at the "sham," issuing a statement in which spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham maintained Trump "has done nothing wrong, and the Democrats know it."
"With today’s vote, Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats have done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules," she said. "The Democrats want to render a verdict without giving the Administration a chance to mount a defense. That is unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American."