House Panel To Begin Markup Of Trump Impeachment Articles

Dec 11, 2019
Originally published on December 11, 2019 8:07 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

'Tis the season of very long congressional hearings. House committees investigating the president have held sessions in recent weeks lasting eight hours, 10 hours, even longer, slipping well into the evening. Today, a session begins in the evening, 7 o'clock tonight Eastern Time. The House Judiciary Committee edits the articles of impeachment. NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis is with us. Sue, good morning.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. So we're going to edit documents in prime time.

DAVIS: Well, you know, they're going to at least get the theatrics out of the way tonight. Tonight starts a two-part series of something called a markup. A markup as quite literally when a committee can markup a bill. They can change it. They can edit it. They can amend it. They want to start tonight because they want to get all of the opening statements and all of the member statements out of the way so tomorrow they can get through any possible amendments - we don't expect many to pass, we expect the articles not to fundamentally change - and then get to that final vote on articles of impeachment in daylight hours so the country can see it.

INSKEEP: Why only two articles against the president, one for abuse of power relating to his acts relating to Ukraine and one for obstruction of Congress?

DAVIS: You know, the Democrats all along had indicated - certainly from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she wanted to keep this pretty narrow and pretty focused. A lot of Democrats, especially moderate Democrats, ones from the districts that Donald Trump won or is still very popular, have been supportive of the impeachment process but have made clear their votes wouldn't be there if Democrats cast a really wide net. So in some ways, it's just the practical politics of it. If they want to have the votes to pass it on the floor - and they probably have those votes to do it next week - you're going to have to keep those moderates very happy with what they are. And they say that this is a - they're good with the scope of these articles.

INSKEEP: How has the president reacted to this relatively narrow impeachment?

DAVIS: On brand?

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: OK.

DAVIS: He had a campaign rally last night in Pennsylvania. And this is how he talked about impeachment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is impeachment light. This is the lightest impeachment in the history of our country by far. It's not even like an impeachment.

DAVIS: It is most definitely an impeachment. I don't know what impeachment light is. But, clearly, the White House and Republicans and allies on the Hill have been very critical of this process, are not going to get any votes for impeachment from Republicans in Congress on this. And the White House will - you know, continues to say the process has been unfair to him, although they have indicated they might engage more in a trial in the Senate.

INSKEEP: I guess he can say the impeachment charges are relatively narrow, but these articles, at least in this pre-edited form, echo directly some of the language from previous impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Now, as they go into this markup process, the next stage of impeachment, what else is the House doing?

DAVIS: It was a big week on Capitol Hill in terms of legislation. You know, they announced a trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a rewrite of the 1994 NAFTA trade bill. And they also are going to pass a defense bill today, in which they have another...

INSKEEP: Sue, I just got to stop you for a second. You just said it was a big week on Capitol Hill. It is Wednesday morning.

DAVIS: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: It is Wednesday morning. But that's the way this week has felt. Please, go on.

DAVIS: That is the way this week has felt. Look, at the end of every year, Congress tends to get really productive as members are trying to get out of town. And this week, they did get a couple of big bipartisan deals. And I think it's good for the president, right? He's getting to say he's delivering on his campaign promises. And it's good for Democrats. It's divided government. They need to also be able to go home and say, this is why you gave us the majority in the House. There was political incentives to really try and get some things done. So they have a trade deal. They're about to pass a defense bill today that will also be signed into law. That includes a bipartisan deal to give the president the Space Force, that new branch of military he wanted, in exchange for giving all federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave. So, you know, it is - it does show that they can move forward with an impeachment and still move a legislative agenda.

INSKEEP: Some Democrats have said, why work with this president at all? But clearly, Nancy Pelosi feels differently.

DAVIS: She does because I think she looks at legislative wins and sees that something can be good for Trump and good for Democrats. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, thanks as always.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.