The House is quickly moving forward on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. But first, lawmakers have to wade through the murky and messy world of legislating inside a congressional committee.
Wednesday's Judiciary Committee meeting to consider the articles of impeachment kicks off a two-day committee marathon to debate and vote on the articles of impeachment, which is expected to be long and contentious -- and will give viewers a real window into the messy sausage-making process on Capitol Hill.
The committee's meeting to debate and vote on the articles is an important, if not inevitable step toward impeachment for House Democrats. The sessions on Wednesday and Thursday are sure to contain plenty of debate, theatrics and arguing over the procedure. But Democrats hold a 24-17 majority on the committee, meaning they can vote down any Republican attempt to change the impeachment articles, making Republicans only real weapon in the proceeding the ability to extend the debate indefinitely.
Democrats introduced two articles of impeachment against Trump on Tuesday, charging that the President should be removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Judiciary Committee is expected to approve those articles of impeachment on Thursday after considering amendments, sending them to the House floor for a vote next week that would make Trump the third president in US history to be impeached.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said the President was being charged by Congress with using his office to "demand that a foreign government attack his political rivals" and obstructing the investigation into his conduct that was "complete, absolute, and without precedent in American history."
"Taken together, the two articles charge President Trump with placing his private, political interests above our national security, above our free and fair elections, and above our ability to hold public officials accountable," Nadler said. "With a heavy heart but clear in my duty to our country, I support these articles of impeachment. I urge my colleagues to support them as well."
The committee meeting kicks off on Wednesday with what amounts to a lengthy talk-a-thon: every lawmaker on the 41-member Judiciary Committee will have the chance to give an opening statement to kick off the debate.
Then on Thursday morning, the real legislative wheeling and dealing will begin: At the Judiciary Committee meeting, any member can offer any amendment he or she wants, and the committee has little choice but to consider it.
Democrats are not expected to offer much -- if any -- amendments. Republicans are expected to offer numerous amendments -- yet it's unclear if that means a handful or dozens. A member can decide to offer an amendment on the spot. All they have to do is physically take the text to the clerk, and ultimately the chairman will have to recognize the amendment.
For each amendment, every member has the right to speak for up to five minutes each, which means that Republicans can make the committee meeting -- referred to around Capitol Hill as a markup -- go as long as they want to on Thursday.
But what could end the session by 7 p.m. ET Thursday evening: the congressional ball at the White House, according to multiple sources, since a number of members — particularly Republicans — are expected to attend.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on House Judiciary, wouldn't say how many amendments Republicans would offer. But he suggested they would use the session to mount a defense of the President and "present the facts and evidence that the other side is not permitting."
Once the amendments have all been considered, the committee will vote to approve the articles of impeachment, sending them to the floor where they will likely get a vote next week.