House Rules Committee meets to set terms of impeachment debate

United States Senate/ MGN

The House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday morning to set the length and terms of debate on the House floor over two articles of impeachment against President Trump, setting up a historic vote later in the week.

The Rules Committee will meet at 11 a.m. to determine whether there will be any votes in the full House on amendments to the articles, and how many hours of debate there will be. The debate in the meeting will likely revolve mostly around the procedure of the impeachment process, with some rehashing of arguments from Democrats and Republicans about the president’s conduct and the whether it rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

The House is expected to vote to impeach the president on Wednesday, in what would be just the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history.

Senators have already begun looking ahead to a trial in the upper chamber, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer writing a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Sunday night demanding several witnesses be called.

Schumer called for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify at a potential Senate trial, accusing the president of having “something to hide.” McConnell and other Republicans indicated over the weekend that they would prefer a quick trial with potentially no witnesses called.

Sixty-two percent, meanwhile, believe the president will have a fair trial in the Senate, while 55% of Americans polled think Mr. Trump was treated fairly by the House during its impeachment inquiry.

But the country remains divided on whether Mr. Trump should be impeached and removed from office. According to the poll released Tuesday, 49% support impeaching and removing the president, while 46% are opposed.

While the Senate blocked off the month of January for an impeachment trial, the details still remain unclear, including how long it will last and whether witnesses will be called.

Democrat on Rules Committee expects Republicans to try to “muck up” process
Representative Norma Torres, a Democrat from California who sits on the House Rules Committee, told CBS News in a phone interview she doesn’t foresee any successful amendments to the current articles of impeachment.

“It’s a very short read, there’s no confusion, there’s no clarifying, it is what it is,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean Republicans won’t resort to procedural moves to stall the process, as they have over the last three months, she said.

“I think we have seen that play out, not only in the SCIF with the Intel Committee, but also on Judiciary, so I think that we can assume that they will probably behave in the same way,” Torres said, adding she thinks Republicans will try to “muck up” the process.

Torres expects the articles to move out of the House Rules Committee Tuesday for a floor vote later this week.

As more and more of her Democratic colleagues in districts Mr. Trump won in 2016 came out in favor of impeachment Monday, Torres said she has “great admiration” for them.

“You have to admire, I think, their high ethical standards when they are willing to sacrifice their own political future to stand up for our Constitution, for our rule of law, and for our democracy,” she said.

What comes next on the impeachment schedule
The stage is set for a vote on the two articles of impeachment later this week. Here’s what comes next:

Rules Committee hearing
The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday at 11 a.m. to formulate a rule determining how long lawmakers will have to debate the articles of impeachment on the House floor.

House vote on articles of impeachment

Depending on what the Rules Committee decides, a period of debate and full votes on the articles of impeachment are expected on Wednesday. The timing of the vote won’t be determined until the Rules Committee finalizes the outline for debate. Members will vote on each article separately, with a simple majority needed to impeach the president.

Selection of House managers

Assuming the articles of impeachment are adopted, the House will then need to appoint “managers” who will present the case before the Senate at trial. In modern impeachment cases, including the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, these managers have been selected through House resolutions.

Since Democrats control the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ultimately decide who represents the House at trial. Several dozen freshman Democrats have been pushing for independent Representative Justin Amash, a former Republican, to be included as a manager.

Holiday recess

Congress is scheduled to go on a two-week break at the end of this week, returning after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Senate trial

The official 2020 Senate calendar blocked off the month of January for a potential trial. Several Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, have indicated their intention to resolve the trial quickly, possibly without the appearance of witnesses.

While the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over impeachment trials, a simple majority of 51 senators can rule on motions to introduce evidence or call witnesses. There are 53 Republicans in the upper chamber.

In his letter to McConnell on Sunday, Schumer, the Democratic leader, proposed a timeline for the trial:

Monday, January 6: The adoption of “pretrial housekeeping measures.”
Tuesday, January 7: Swearing in of the chief justice and senators, followed by “a period for preparation and submission of trial briefs”
Thursday, January 9: Recognition of the House managers for 24 hours to present the case against the president, followed by 24 hours for the president’s counsel to present the defense.

Senate rules adopted in 1986 govern the proceedings at modern impeachment trials. Under these procedures, the Senate meets everyday after the House managers are introduced, with the exception of Sunday, until a final verdict is reached.

Schumer noted his proposed timeline is “modeled directly on the language of the two resolutions that set forth the 1999 trial rules” in the Clinton impeachment, which were adopted unanimously by the Senate.

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