The next few days are going to be long, but by the end of Wednesday, we expect that President Donald Trump will be impeached a second time.
The story over the upcoming days will continue to be not just what is happening on the floor, but how the Capitol and the members in it prepare for the next week as new threats and the inauguration looms.
The US Capitol has become a fortress in Washington as Democrats – keenly aware that a new President will be inaugurated in just eight days – grapple with how to curtail the damage that could be done by the outgoing man in the White House.
The jarring juxtaposition of Democrats beginning to prepare for their new power paired with the reality of the moment is starting to sink in. Still, there is no stopping impeachment now. House Democrats are there. Senate Democrats are working through how it might unfold and President Joe Biden is acknowledging that his opening days in office may be divided between his agenda to bring the country together and a Senate impeachment trial that will continue to keep the country divided.
What to watch Tuesday
The House Committee is the hottest ticket in town Tuesday. Starting at 11 a.m. ET, the committee is going to begin debate on Rep. Jamie Raskin’s bill urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. That debate is expected to go one to three hours. But, it could go longer. After that, the Rules panel might take a break.
Rules is expected to then return in the mid-afternoon to begin debating the impeachment article. This meeting is expected to stretch hours. It could go well into the evening. For context, the last impeachment Rules debate lasted about eight hours.
Around 7:30 p.m. ET, the House will begin voting on Raskin’s 25th Amendment bill. They will first vote on the rule. Then, they will vote on the actual bill. A reminder that votes in the house take a while given the protocols in place for coronavirus.
So what about impeachment? The House will pass the rule to govern the debate on the impeachment article Tuesday night at some point. When that occurs is not clear. But, Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET, the House will meet to begin consideration of the article of impeachment on the House floor. Exact timing for final vote Wednesday TBD.
The Republican off ramp
Democrats are confident there will be at least a handful of Republicans voting with them on impeachment Wednesday. All eyes are on No. 3 Republican Liz Cheney who has made no secret of her frustrations with President Donald Trump over the years, but comes from conservative Wyoming.
Cheney has not said what she would decided to do on the issue but she told colleagues on a conference call Monday evening that Wednesday’s impeachment vote is a “vote of conscience,” a source told CNN.
Also watch Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois. And, Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican who told CNN on Monday night “I had a break on Wednesday around 4:17 p.m. … The one person who could tamp down the rhetoric , the one person who could have put an end to that violence, the President, he put out that video that said ..’we love you, you’re special. Come home.”
In a letter Monday, McCarthy tried to give his members an off-ramp or alternative to impeachment circulating a letter that included calling for four options including censure, a bipartisan commission to study the attack, reforming the electoral count act and legislation to promote “voter confidence” in future elections. Look, don’t expect dozens of Republicans to vote for impeachment, but these alternatives aren’t coming to the floor in a Pelosi-controlled House of Representatives.
Let’s talk about censure: It’s not happening
Yes, moderate Republicans are calling for censuring the President. Pelosi made it clear on the Democratic caucus call Monday that censure wasn’t on the table. The majority of her caucus is backing impeachment. Republicans who have been trying to convince Democrats to switch directions over the weekend and throughout Monday weren’t successful. At this point there are two votes coming to the House floor where Republicans can register their anger with Trump’s actions. They can vote for Raskin’s bill on the 25th Amendment or they can vote for impeachment. That’s it. Democrats don’t want to give them an out card or another option.
The Senate’s double duty plan emerging
Right now, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is trying to use a rarely used procedural move to get McConnell to bring back the Senate with him and force a trial. The move only requires McConnell and Schumer to be on the same page, but the expectation as of now is McConnell isn’t going to agree with it. So, what’s the plan B?
As the House charges ahead, there is a growing realization in the Senate, that an impeachment trial of Trump cannot be put off for 100 days. Instead, the plan that is beginning to make the most sense is one in which the new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would divide each day in half. In the morning, the Senate would move ahead with confirming Biden’s Cabinet and begin work on his stimulus package. In the afternoon, the Senate would reconvene as a court room where former President Donald Trump is on trial. Biden alluded to this Monday noting that it was his “hope and expectation.”
Biden noted he had not heard back from the Senate’s parliamentarian about whether that plan could be actualized. Remember, there are strict rules that govern the US Senate amid impeachment.
Alan Frumin, the former Senate parliamentarian, Monday night who told CNN that he didn’t believe there was anything precluding Schumer from dividing the day like that, essentially allowing the Senate to double track. In essence, only having a few hours in the morning could delay Biden’s agenda. It could make things move more slowly, but it wouldn’t necessarily halt it. However, moving nominees along quickly would still require cooperation from Republicans. Maybe Republicans – aware of the threats to the Capitol itself and the country at large– are willing to move quickly on a few national security nominees. But, we don’t know right now how members will feel. Cardinal rule of the Senate is always things are possible. There are options, but you have to have agreement to move fast.
Senate rules simply say that once the trial starts at 12 p.m. ET every day the Senate should be in trial, but “the adjournment of the Senate sitting in said trial shall not operate as an adjournment of the Senate, but on such adjournment, the Senate shall resume the consideration of its legislative and executive business.”
That means – in short – you can do other things in the morning. But, how much you could actually get done is another question entirely.
Within the Democratic caucus, members were fired up over the weekend over impeachment. But members and aides on the Senate Democratic side tell me that the reality of what this trial could mean for another stimulus bill, to Biden’s nominees, to the country’s morale is sinking in. At first, members thought they could potentially dispose of the articles quickly if they came to the Senate, but while there are no rules governing how long a trial has to be, members also don’t want to make a sham out of the process. Essentially, if the Senate Democrats have to have a trial, if Pelosi is going to send them over, many members are arguing they need to do it right. That means expect this trial to last days, not hours.
CNN’s Manu Raju with DJ Judd contributed to this report.