The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a resolution setting the ground rules for the public phase of the Trump impeachment inquiry with Republicans railing the process is less fair to Donald Trump than past inquiries were against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

The House voted 232-196 along partisan lines to adopt the resolution, which calls for the House Judiciary Committee to conduct public hearings. Two Democrats -- Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey -- sided with Republicans against authorizing the inquiry. Four lawmakers did not register votes.

The investigation centers on a July 25 phone call Trump made to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during which he asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Witnesses, deposed behind closed doors, have painted a picture of a White House running a shadow diplomacy led by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and raised questions over whether Trump was abusing the power of his office.

Republicans, who have been clamoring for an open process, decried the resolution as unfair and accused Democrats of persecuting the president, saying they’re trying to toss Trump from office for doing his job. Trump has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in urging passage, said a full inquiry is needed to determine whether the president should be impeached.

“No one comes to Congress to impeach the president unless his actions are jeopardizing our oath of office,” Pelosi said, quoting both the oath and the opening sentences of the Constitution.

“What are we fighting for? Defending our democracy for the people,” she said, criticizing Trump for saying Article 2 allows him to do anything he wants. She said she doesn’t understand why Republicans are “afraid of the truth.” She said the next step is open hearings “so the public can see the facts for themselves.”

“I did not come here to launch an impeachment process. But the facts demand it,” Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Mass.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and who has been leading the inquiry, urged passage of the resolution because “no one is above the law.”

"I rise in strong support but I do not take any pleasure in the events that have made this process necessary," Schiff said.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accused Democrats of using their power to discredit democracy because “they’re scared they cannot defeat him at the ballot box.”

“This is not only an attempt to undo the last election but to influence the next one,” McCarthy said, adding that Democrats have worked since the last election to undermine Trump’s legitimacy and predetermined his guilt.

“For 37 days and counting, Democrats have conducted an unprecedented, unfair and undemocratic process,” he said, adding: “It’s only fitting we take this vote on Halloween.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., called the resolution unfair and said it establishes “Soviet-style rules.” He said the founding fathers feared the impeachment process would be hijacked by partisan interests. He said the resolution should be rejected because it gives the chair veto authority over witnesses and could even eject the president’s legal counsel.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, criticized the process thus far, accusing Schiff of ignoring “the rules and 45 years of impeachment precedent” and muzzled Republicans while leaking “cherry-picked” snippets of testimony gathered behind closed doors.

McCaul said the White House has not been allowed to defend the president and denied Trump due process. He also accused Democrats of using the process for political gain. He said instead of conducting an impeachment inquiry, Democrats should just allow the public to vote.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla, said the resolution should be amended to require release of all testimony, not just what the chairman chooses to release. He called the resolution “fundamentally unfair” and said it “ignores due process.”

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, said Democrats have persecuted Trump since the day he took office.

"First they insisted that the President is a Russian agent. Then they claimed he's a money launderer and a tax cheat and a fraudulent businessman. Now they've decided they don't like the way he talks to foreign leaders," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

Trump reacted to the debate by calling impeachment a hoax and a witch hunt.