Articles of Impeachment Reach Final Hurdle Before House Vote in Rules Committee

House Rules Committee chairman Jim McGovern Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

Last week’s televised House Judiciary Committee mark-up of articles of impeachment was both unusual and extremely tedious — mostly thanks to Committee Republicans trying to drag the evening session into the wee hours when no one would be watching. Tuesday’s Rules Committee session aimed at preparing the articles for floor action represents an even rarer televised event (the powerful committee’s discussions are usually very private), while the potential for Kabuki theater posturing by Republicans may be even higher, since delaying things is about the only play the House GOP has left before the final vote.

As Roll Call notes, the Rules committee is a majority leadership bastion with Democrats enjoying a 9-4 margin in membership:

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Tuesday for consideration of the articles of impeachment in their tiny hearing room tucked away on the third floor of the Capitol, just across the hall from the House Daily Press Gallery. 

Accustomed to toiling in wonky obscurity, often late at night and very rarely on live television, the small and fiercely partisan committee will hear testimony and develop parameters for floor consideration of impeachment….

Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., didn’t say Monday how long Wednesday’s floor debate would last, but he said he’d like it to wrap up with a vote before Thursday.

“We want to protect the process and make sure it doesn’t turn into a circus,” McGovern said on MSNBC.

Because they don’t have the power to do anything about what Rules decides, it’s more than likely that the four Republicans on the committee will try to hold their own mini-circus tomorrow, alleging all sorts of terrible abuses of power by House Democrats in limiting floor debate and the opportunity for the kind of futile amendment efforts that made the Judiciary mark-up such a bad joke. As one committee Democrat told CBS News:

Rep. 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… 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.

In the end, Rules will follow Nancy Pelosi’s inclinations on how long the floor debate on Wednesday will run, whether to hold one vote on both articles or one on each, and what, if any, amendments are allowed. Given Republican weaponization of amendments in the Judiciary Committee as a sort of narcotic to numb talk and action, it’s likely to be a tight if not “closed” rule (the latter eliminates any votes on amendments). For those who have heard the arguments over and over, it will be must-miss-TV.

Articles of Impeachment Reach Last Hurdle in Rules Committee