Democrats huddle, set rules for debate before impeachment vote

By Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes & Daniel Uria
House rules committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., holds up a list of people and organizations who have not cooperated with the impeachment investigation. Photo by Andrew Harnik/UPI
1 of 7 | House rules committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., holds up a list of people and organizations who have not cooperated with the impeachment investigation. Photo by Andrew Harnik/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The House rules committee met Tuesday to go over parameters of the voting process in the full chamber on Wednesday, where President Donald Trump is expected to become the third U.S. president to be impeached.

The House judiciary committee approved two articles of impeachment last week, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The rules committee set the framework of a historic debate Wednesday and Thursday that will precede the vote.


Democrats, who control the committee by a 9-4 margin, voted to hold six hours of debate on Wednesday, equally divided between the Democratic majority and the Republican minority, that will be overseen by judiciary committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and ranking Republican, Doug Collins.

The committee also voted to hold separate votes on each article of impeachment and established that if the House votes to adopt the articles it can consider a resolution on appointing and authorizing impeachment managers for the Senate trial.


In his opening statement, panel Chairman Rep. Jim McGovern said it's "clear that this president has acted in a way that not only violates the public trust, he jeopardized our national security, and he undermined our democracy."

He added that Trump did so by withholding Congress-approved military aid to Ukraine, which he called "a partner under siege" as a means to "extract a personal political favor."

Ranking Republican Rep. Tom Cole countered that House Democrats have "rushed to judgment" in a preordained outcome he called "flawed and partisan."

"This is not the result of a fair process and certainly not a bipartisan one," he said.

Among the first presentations Tuesday was one given by Collins. Under questioning from Cole, he maintained that Trump withheld the aid to ferret out corruption in Ukraine's government. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., rejected the argument, saying the president has failed to act on other opportunities to fight corruption in Kiev.

Nadler was supposed to present at Tuesday's hearing, but was unable to attend due to a family emergency, he said.

The committee also considered amendments at Tuesday's hearing to change or eliminate rules likely to be introduced by Republicans.


The full House vote will take place after the debate, and the Democratic-led chamber is expected to approve both articles. The proceedings would then move to trial in the Republican-majority Senate. A conviction there on either charge would remove Trump from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a meeting with House Democrats earlier Tuesday, during which several pledged to vote for impeachment -- including some from pro-Trump districts.

"I know some people will be upset with me," Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., told the Syracuse Post Standard. "But I was elected to do what was right, not what's good for me politically."

Trump sent Pelosi a scathing letter Tuesday, calling her actions in the impeachment inquiry the equivalent of "declaring open war on American democracy."

"You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying, 'I pray for the president,' when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense," he wrote.

"It is a terrible thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it, not I!"

Trump said the Salem witch trials had more due process than Democrats are giving him.

Pelosi called Trump's six-page letter "ridiculous."


"I've seen the essence of it and it's really sick," she said.

Late Tuesday, she sent a letter to her Democratic colleagues, reminding them on the eve of the vote that it is their duty to uphold and protect the Constitution.

"If we do not act, we will be derelict in our duty," Pelosi wrote.

Also Tuesday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell dismissed an initial offer by the upper chamber's Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, on rules for a Senate trial.

Schumer told McConnell last weekend he prefers a trial with witnesses, instead of the much shorter no-witness trial sought by Republicans. Schumer named acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and White House aides Robert Blair and Michael Duffey as potential witnesses.

Speaking from the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell blasted Schumer's pitch, saying it's "dead wrong" and "a fishing expedition."

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