House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler late on Thursday night abruptly paused his committee’s debate on articles of impeachment before final votes until Friday morning, prompting howls of protest from Republicans after a marathon session that had stretched more than 14 hours.
As the debate appeared to be winding down toward a final vote on the impeachment articles, Nadler announced that the committee would instead hold a final vote on the two articles Friday morning, and banged his gavel down. The hearing will resume at 10 a.m. EST Friday, allowing Democrats to hold a historic vote in the daytime instead of close to midnight.
Republicans erupted in anger at the move, accusing the New York Democrat of wanting to put the vote on television and going back on an agreement for the committee to stop considering amendments.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called the move the “the most bush league stunt I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
“Words cannot describe how inappropriate this was,” Collins said.
But Democrats blamed Republicans for the schedule switch. They were furious at Republicans for what they believed was a blatant effort to drag out Thursday’s proceedings and delay final votes until the middle of the night. Earlier Thursday, it was widely believed that Republicans would be through offering amendments by around 5 p.m. EST.
As the evening wore on, Democrats came to believe the GOP was simply trying to bury the votes in the news cycle. So the decision was made to hold the final two votes Friday morning to ensure more people would be able to witness the historic move — even though it enraged the GOP.
“They can’t expect to go … into the middle of the night without the American public seeing,” said Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Florida Democrat who is a member of the committee.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland added that they wanted to hold the vote in “broad daylight.”
Nadler declined to comment to CNN on his way out of the hearing room.
Before the pause in the hearing, the committee had debated the two articles of impeachment against the President — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — for hours on end, with lawmakers clashing over the allegations against Trump and the repercussions of voting to impeach him.
The committee’s action will set the stage for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives next week, which would make Trump the third President in US history to be impeached.
Inside the hearing room Thursday, Democrats and Republicans vigorously debated the facts of the Ukraine case, the veracity of the language in the nine-page impeachment resolution and the repercussions that Trump’s impeachment would have for both the Constitution and the institution of Congress.
The markup lasted late into the night Thursday, stretching longer than 14 hours as Republicans used the one tool available to them in the markup: the ability to extend it with additional amendments and debate. As Republicans prepared even more amendments, the committee took a break just after 9 p.m. EST, and lawmakers braced for the debate to last late into the night. When they returned just before 10 p.m. EST, however, tensions had seemed to cool and the committee held its final debate — before Republicans erupted as Nadler ended the meeting for the night.
Thursday’s hearing was the latest and clearest sign yet that Democrats will impeach Trump next week, a reality that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are preparing for as the impeachment case will shift from the Democratic-controlled House to the Republican-held Senate gearing up for a trial in January.
Democrats charge that Trump must be impeached for abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals while withholding US security aid and a White House meeting, and then covering up his conduct by stonewalling the congressional investigation.
“We’re here today because the President abused his power. We’re here today because he solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat and member of House leadership. “He had welcomed foreign interference as it relates to Russia. He solicited foreign interference on the White House lawn with China, and he did it with Ukraine. He’s a serial solicitor.”
Republicans counter that Democrats are pushing forward with a political impeachment that contains no crime nor evidence of wrongdoing.
“They can’t make a crime,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. “They hold back to the fact that we can impeach him for anything, and that’s what they’ve done.”