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House members from region vote party line in impeachment inquiry

House members from region vote party line in impeachment inquiry

House members from region vote party line in impeachment inquiry
Stefanik, Tonko and Delgado
Photographer: Gazette file photos

CAPITAL REGION — U.S. representatives from the Capital Region voted along party lines for a resolution formally outlining the impeachment process for President Donald Trump. 

The measure passed 232-196, and all but two Democrats backed the measure. 

U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, voted in favor of advancing the inquiry. 

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schyulerville, voted against the measure, which she dismissed as “partisan.”

In voting in favor, Tonko said of the president, “His grave abuse of power aimed at undermining our elections must be held accountable under the law." 

While Tonko endorsed an impeachment inquiry in July following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Delgado didn’t support the inquiry until allegations surfaced that Trump tried to leverage U.S. military aid to compel Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky to help his re-election campaign by investigating Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son.

Delgado issued a statement later Thursday: "Today’s vote established the formal process for the relevant committees to continue their work. I voted for this resolution because I am committed to transparency and accountability.  I believe this resolution will allow the American people to see the ongoing work within these committees, to follow the facts, and to protect our national security."

Stefanik, however, wrote on Twitter: “It further empowers [House Intelligence Chairman] Adam Schiff and further limits members of Congress participation in this broken process."

Stefanik, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has been critical of the process since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, announced the inquiry in September.

“I think there’s been a knee-jerk want to pursue impeachment from many Democrats who were elected this past election cycle who simply wanted to impeach the president because they disagree with his policy positions,” Stefanik told reporters before a town hall gathering in Hudson Falls earlier this month. 

The third-term lawmaker previously criticized the lack of a formal vote, and contends Republicans have been shut out of the process by being denied access to witnesses and documents.

“We’re seeing cherry-picked excepts being released rather than the entirety of the depositions,” Stefanik said. “Transparency is a good thing on all issues, but particularly this issue.”

Stefanik has called for Schiff to resign from the committee, citing his dramatized description of a phone call Trump had with his Ukrainian counterpart that compared him to a mob boss. She co-sponsored a resolution to formally censure the chairman, which ultimately failed. 

The vote on Thursday sets the rules governing procedures and evidence as the inquiry moves into a more public phase, allowing transcripts from the House Intelligence Committee interviews to be released.

The White House has not been cooperating in the impeachment inquiry, calling it a political "witch hunt," and the Trump administration has instructed federal government officials not to testify in the inquiry. 

The vote now gives the president rights in the Judiciary Committee, “allowing his lawyers to participate in hearings and giving Republicans the chance to request subpoenas for witnesses and documents,” reported the New York Times.

Stefanik has said the White House should compel witnesses to testify following the vote. 

The lawmaker has also called for the Department of Justice to probe allegations that Biden, while serving as vice president, attempted to help his son’s business interests. Those allegations, forwarded by Republicans, are so far unsupported by evidence. 

“I do think they should be looked into,” Stefanik said in Hudson Falls.

The vote has incensed officials of the state Republican Party, who lashed Delgado alongside downstate Democrats Anthony Brindisi, Max Rose and Sean Patrick Maloney, calling them “enemies of democracy.”

“They duped their constituents, broke their word and put politics over country,” said state Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy. “It won’t be forgotten.”

Stefanik, who is seeking a fourth term next year, has made impeachment an early campaign issue, and has attempted to tie her potential challenger, Tedra Cobb, to the Democratic-led effort in Congress.

“The voters in our district deserve to know where my Democratic opponent stands on this critical vote,” Stefanik said. “But my guess is she will continue to hide and refuse to answer — and the media will let her.”

Cobb said on Thursday said she supports the inquiry. 

”As I've said repeatedly, I support the inquiry and its goal in finding the facts in this grave matter of national security," said Cobb in a released statement. “This vote will bring further transparency to this incredibly important process.”

Cobb said Stefanik is using what she said is a “crisis” to “score political points, raise money and advance her career.”

“She has repeatedly called for a vote to continue the inquiry and ensure an open and transparent process," Cobb said. "Yet, when faced with the opportunity to do just that, she voted no. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, Elise Stefanik should do better. Her constituents deserve it."

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