House to Trigger Senate Impeachment Trial in Wednesday Vote

Her work on impeachment is mostly done. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

So it’s official: Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus that the House will vote on Wednesday (with a spare five minutes of debate per side) on a resolution that will appoint impeachment managers who will present the case for Trump’s removal from office in the Senate, authorize them to transmit the two previously passed articles of impeachment to the upper chamber, and cover the costs associated with the trial itself.

Pelosi seems to be playing it straight, issuing no further demands before making the pivot in the saga from House to Senate, and from impeachment to Trump’s removal or (almost certainly) acquittal. Now the managers (yet to be named, though they will certainly include Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler and Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff) will bear the burden of making the argument that in resisting witnesses and new evidence, Senate Republican are contributing to a cover-up that justifies one of the two articles of impeachment (involving obstruction of Congress).

In terms of the precise timing going forward, it’s important to understand that what triggers the Senate trial is not the Wednesday resolution, but the physical presentation of the articles of impeachment by the managers, who will march over to the Senate in what is likely to be a highly stylized ritual later this week. Once that happens, the standing rules of the Senate for impeachment trials kick in, with the swearing in of Chief Justice John Roberts and of the senators themselves, which will probably happen next Tuesday after observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The first order of business after the trial begins will be the passage of a detailed trial-rules package, likely on a party-line vote, which will seek to defer decisions on evidence and witnesses until after the House managers and the president’s attorneys have presented their cases (though Democrats are almost certainly going to challenge that stipulation as a violation of the standing rules — which can only be amended by 67 votes — and appeal to Roberts to make rulings on witnesses an evidence). Things could heat up pretty fast.

Among multiple uncertainties is whether Trump will encourage one of his Senate satraps to offer an immediate motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment before the trial really begins, or alternatively, before fights over witnesses begin. The whole process will represent a test of Mitch McConnell’s parliamentary and megalomaniac-wrangling skills, of Roberts’s ability to appear impartial, of Trump’s own limited self-control, and of party unity on both sides of the aisle. But Pelosi’s work is almost done, unless Trump commits more impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors before Congress becomes focused solely on his, and their own, reelection bids.

House to Trigger Senate Impeachment Trial in Wednesday Vote