What's ahead in impeachment: Debate, then a vote next week

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives will vote next week to impeach President Trump, congressional sources told Yahoo News, but Democrats still have one more long committee hearing to get through this week.

The House Judiciary Committee will meet Wednesday evening and then Thursday to debate the two articles of impeachment that were announced on Tuesday. It will be a lengthy and contentious final meeting of the committee on the impeachment issue.

The Judiciary hearing will be a two-day debate, ostensibly to focus on the text and substance of the charges against the president. But Republican anger over the impeachment is likely to be on display.

Republicans on the committee are upset it has not held more hearings, and feel shut out of the proceedings, after the House Intelligence Committee held five days of hearings with 12 fact witnesses, which produced dramatic moments and revelations. This final two-part hearing will be the last chance for ambitious Republicans on the committee to try to seize the spotlight and showcase their opposition for a national political audience.

Each member of the 41-member committee will have five minutes to speak on Wednesday evening, and then Thursday morning the articles of impeachment will be debated, with each side able to make motions and ask for votes on proposed changes to the text of the articles.

Democrats hold a 24-to-17 majority on the committee, so they can easily defeat any Republican motion if they vote as a bloc.

The House is expected to impeach the president by a comfortable margin, since Democrats have a 233-to-197 advantage. This does not mean the president would be removed from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) listens next to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler(R), Democrat of New York, speak to announce articles of impeachment for US President Donald Trump during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 10, 2019. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a press conference on Tuesday to announce articles of impeachment against President Trump. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Impeachment is similar to an indictment in the criminal justice system, when a grand jury finds that enough evidence of a crime exists to hold a trial. The House vote will be similar to a grand jury’s findings, and the next step will be a trial in the Senate. The 100 U.S. senators will decide the president’s guilt or innocence, and a 67-vote supermajority is required to do so. If Trump is found guilty, he will be removed from office. That outcome is highly unlikely at this point, mostly because Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate.

With the full House vote on impeachment expected next week, it’s unclear how much debate there will be ahead of that. But there will be significant time for Democrats and Republicans to speak out on the House floor in support of and in opposition to impeachment.

The Senate trial is expected to begin right after the New Year, when Congress returns from a holiday break, which is scheduled to begin on Dec. 20. Congress also needs to reach an agreement on funding the government before that date to avoid a shutdown.

A Senate trial would turn the upper chamber of Congress into a courtroom, and the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, is required by the Constitution to preside over the trial.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts listens to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Chief Justice John Roberts listens to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Jan. 30, 2018. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)


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