WASHINGTON (CN) — A powerful House panel on Tuesday set the terms for what is likely to be a bitter debate on the chamber’s floor tomorrow over whether to make President Donald Trump the third U.S. president ever impeached.
After a marathon hearing Tuesday, the House Rules Committee voted to give the articles of impeachment six hours of debate on the House floor on Wednesday, during which time members will make their final statements ahead of a historic vote.
The six hours will be divided evenly between the parties. Lawmakers will also have one hour to debate the rule itself before voting to adopt it, effectively giving the articles a total of seven hours of time on the House floor.
Republicans sought to give the articles 12 hours of debate, but Rules Committee Chair James McGovern said six hours would be sufficient and speculated the debate will drag on well beyond the time the rule allows.
Shifting from the stately chamber inside the Longworth Building where weeks of public testimony unfolded to the far smaller House Rules Committee room inside the U.S. Capitol, Democrats and Republicans went head-to-head Tuesday over how they wish to see debate procedures unfold on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The Rules Committee is a powerful panel that sets the terms of debate for bills that come to the floor without overwhelming support. The rules the committee crafts determine how long a bill can be debated on the House floor and whether or which amendments can be offered.
The panel is stacked heavily in favor of the majority party, currently with a 9-4 majority in favor of Democrats. Because of the influence the panel wields over how the consideration of bills takes place, the committee is sometimes called "The Speaker's Committee."
Before the committee approved the rule just after 9 p.m. on Tuesday, its members spent nearly 10 hours rehashing the debates that have consumed Congress in recent months as the House's impeachment inquiry has gone on.
Congressman James McGovern, the committee’s chairman, called it shocking that his Republican colleagues would not criticize what Trump did in Ukraine.
"The president of the United States is rolling out the welcome mat for that kind of foreign interference,” McGovern said to begin the day’s proceedings. “The evidence is clear as it is overwhelming."
Some two decades ago, McGovern had opposed the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton in the House. But unlike today’s Republicans, McGovern said, he conceded that what the president did was wrong.
Representative Tom Cole, the committee’s top Republican, emphasized that a Senate dominated by his party will not remove Trump from office.
"The votes to remove the president simply aren’t there,” Cole noted. “Bluntly put, this is a matter Congress can’t resolve on its own."