The full House will debate and vote separately on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, under a process set up by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday night after a contentious hearing that spanned more than 10 hours.
The Rules panel adopted a closed rule in a 9-4 party-line vote just after 9 p.m., which means no amendments to the articles will be considered on the House floor.
Under that rule, the House will take up the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges against Trump in two votes, allowing members to vote for or against each article. Rep. Jared Golden, a freshman Democrat from Maine, is the only lawmaker who has announced so far that he will vote differently on each article.
The rule provides for six hours of debate on the articles, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, and waives all points of order against consideration of the articles.
The panel rejected, 9-4, an amendment from Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., that would have allowed a point of order related to Republicans’ objection that they were not permitted to have a separate minority hearing day as a part of the impeachment inquiry.
The rule also provides that after adoption of the articles, the House will consider the appointment and authorization of managers for the impeachment trial in the Senate.
The panel rejected, 9-4, a proposal from ranking member Tom Cole that the debate time be doubled to 12 hours.
“No one wanted to be here today,” said House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “But I am proud that when history called upon us, we fought to keep the vision of our founders alive in our time. We fought to keep this republic intact. This has been a long day, and tomorrow promises to be a long day.”
The more than eight hours of debate and questioning, followed by a 90-minute recess before voting, provided a glimpse at how heated impeachment debate may get on the floor Wednesday, as lawmakers hashed out established arguments on the articles of impeachment against Trump in a Tuesday meeting.
Judiciary Committee member and constitutional scholar Jamie Raskin, D-Md., took the lead in advocating for the articles, stepping in for Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, whose wife had a medical emergency in New York.
Raskin, who serves on both the Rules and Judiciary panels, sat beside Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, at the witness table in the tiny Rules Committee room, where they offered divergent takes on the president’s conduct that spurred the impeachment inquiry.
The Democrats’ case is centered on the allegation that Trump leveraged a White House meeting and military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter while Ukraine faced continued military aggression from Russia.
“We present you not just with high crimes and misdemeanors, but a constitutional crime in progress up to this very minute,” Raskin said.
Collins argued that Democrats based their impeachment case on their preexisting dislike for the president and cherry-picked evidence to support their position.
Collins questioned why the articles of impeachment were even at the Rules Committee, citing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statements earlier this year that impeachment should be overwhelmingly bipartisan and that previous articles were debated under a unanimous consent request.
The articles written for President Bill Clinton in 1998 bypassed the House Rules panel and went to the House floor as a privileged resolution from the Judiciary Committee. The House then moved forward with a unanimous consent agreement that allowed for two days of debate in which nearly all members participated.
Earlier this month, House Republicans wrote in a public letter that they planned to use “every parliamentary tool available to us in committees and the House floor in order to highlight your inaction.”
“I’m not sure in light of this letter that we could get a unanimous consent request with regard to these proceedings to break for a cup of coffee, never mind determine the rules of engagement,” McGovern said, adding that the deal struck during the Clinton case would be impossible today.
The holiday spirit was largely absent from the meeting, aside from Collins comparing the Democrats’ efforts to pin allegations on Trump to “last-minute Christmas shopping.”
“They ran and found something and said, ‘We can do it,’ ” he said of the charges contained in the articles of impeachment.
McGovern said the ultimate vote on impeachment will be a personal “vote of conscience” for lawmakers, echoing Pelosi’s language and stance against whipping Democratic votes for the articles.
“Moments like this call for more than just reflexive partisanship. They require honesty. And they require courage,” McGovern said. “Are any Republicans today willing to muster that strength to say that what this president did was wrong?”
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