House begins final debate over Trump impeachment vote

Key Points
  • The House convenes for a final day of debate before an historic vote on whether to impeach President Trump.
  • House Republicans are expected to introduce procedural motions, appeals, and objections throughout the day.
  • A final vote is expected around 7 p.m. ET, but could be later than that.
Pelosi opens impeachment vote debate on House floor with pledge of allegiance
Pelosi opens impeachment vote debate on House floor with pledge of allegiance

WASHINGTON — The House convenes Wednesday morning for a final day of debate before members vote on whether to make President Donald Trump the third president in the nation's history to be formally impeached.

Following the debate, the Democratic-controlled chamber is expected to approve two separate articles of impeachment, charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The historic vote is slated to take place sometime Wednesday evening, and the vote breakdown will almost certainly fall along party lines.

While House Democrats are using their debate time to condemn the president's actions, the minority House Republicans are interjecting with procedural motions, appeals and objections, something that is expected to continue throughout the day.

These tactics are a time-honored part of any major House debate — for the party in the minority they serve as symbolic expressions of opposition, in this case to impeaching Trump, and as delay tactics intended to drag out the debate.

Despite their serious-sounding names, like "motion to adjourn," these motions don't actually accomplish anything. On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette, Colo., presided over the floor proceedings in the House, where she denied improper Republican requests, occasionally called voice votes to vote down motions, and cut off members of both parties who spoke on the floor for longer than they were allowed.

Pro-impeachment rallies erupt across the United States
Pro-impeachment rallies erupt across the United States

On a practical level, however, the Republican motions and interruptions had, by noon on Wednesday, already delayed the day's proceedings by almost two hours, and pushed a vote that had been scheduled for 10 a.m. back to noon.

Below is a rough outline of the progress of Wednesday's events.

9 a.m. ET: House convened and began debate on the specific rules for the day.

11:30 a.m.: A majority of House members voted to approve of the rules, which then triggered the beginning of debate on the impeachment articles.

12 p.m.: Six hours of formal debate on the impeachment articles themselves began. These six hours could stretch out much longer. The official time allotments will be divided equally between Republicans and Democrats.

6:30 p.m.: This is the earliest hour that members have been told final votes could begin. The votes themselves will take approximately a half hour but could stretch out longer.

7:30 p.m.: Once the articles of impeachment have been voted upon and approved, the House is set to briefly debate the selection of impeachment managers, a small group of Democrats who will serve as prosecutors at Trump's trial, slated to take place early next year in the Senate. This is a debate in name only, however. Like the rest of the day, its outcome is preordained — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will select the impeachment managers. The president will be represented at a Senate trial by his own attorneys, likely to be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

8 p.m.: Following 10 minutes of debate on the impeachment managers, House members will hold a final vote to approve a resolution designating the impeachment managers. As of Wednesday morning, however, Pelosi had not yet revealed the names of the impeachment managers, leaving open the possibility of a genuine surprise.

When that vote is over, the House will adjourn for the day.

The lasting impact impeachment could have on policy and markets
The lasting impact impeachment could have on policy and markets

Compared to the House, Trump's schedule on Wednesday appears relatively light, with his first official event, an intelligence briefing, scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Trump's next event is a 4:45 p.m. departure for Michigan, where the president will hold a campaign rally Wednesday night.

On Tuesday, Trump released a six-page public letter addressed to Pelosi. In it, the president railed against congressional Democrats, the impeachment process, individual House committee chairs and the intelligence community, and he complained bitterly about what he said was a lack of "due process" afforded him during an "illegal, partisan attempted coup."

In reality, the impeachment inquiry was launched earlier this year to determine whether the president had abused his power by mounting a monthslong pressure campaign on the government of Ukraine in order to force it to announce investigations into Trump's political opponents.

The pressure campaign included Trump's withholding of a coveted White House visit for Ukraine's newly elected president, as well as nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to the country amid its war with Russian-backed rebels, while he and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pressed for investigations into the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

This story will be updated throughout the day Wednesday with additional reporting.

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