Dems push impeachment rules over repeated GOP objections, as exasperation boils over

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In a contentious House Rules Committee meeting that lasted into the night on Wednesday, Democrats systematically rejected GOP attempts to alter the ground rules that lawmakers will use as they consider impeaching President Trump, even as Republicans argued that the Dems’ proposed procedures were fundamentally unfair.

“I think we’re all expressing our own frustration here,” House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass, said as exasperation boiled over.

Several moderate Democrats in swing districts, meanwhile, signaled that they were concerned about the impeachment procedures, ahead of a vote on the rules Thursday morning by the full House floor. Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, one of five Democrats who hasn’t committed to supporting the party’s resolution on impeachment procedures, told Fox News Wednesday evening, “I’ll figure it out.”

In a striking scene at the outset of the Rules Committee meeting, Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who himself was impeached and removed from the federal bench in 1989 for taking bribes, outlined the alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors” that he said Trump had committed.

Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., a member of the House Rules Committee, argues a point during a markup of the resolution that will formalize the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Later on, Hastings seemed to relish Democrats’ ability to ram through their impeachment rules, telling Georgia Republican Rep. Rob Woodall that his substantive arguments would essentially be a waste of time.

“Mr. Woodall, the Latin word that we use as a derivative, ‘majority,’ came from ‘major,'” Hastings said, laughing. “The Latin word for ‘minority’ came from ‘minor.’ You understand?”

Throughout the hourslong meeting, Republicans voiced frustration as they repeatedly introduced and advocated for amendments to the rules. Democrats quickly shot those proposals down as disagreements proceeded along party lines.


“Time and time again, in a nickel-and-diming kind of way, you continue to build into the process, for the first time in American history, advantages to the majority,” Woodall remarked.

Hastings’ admonition to Woodall came as the Republican demanded to know why Democrats killed an amendment from Rules Committee Ranking Member Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., which would have held Democrats and Republicans to the same standard in how to call witnesses.

Under Democrats’ current rules, the GOP argued, only minority Republicans are forced to submit a detailed written explanation for why a witness should be subpoenaed to appear before the committee.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., left, joined by Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., presides over a markup of the resolution that will formalize the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. Democrats have been investigating Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine as he pushed the country’s new president to investigate Democrats and the family of rival presidential contender Joe Biden. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“To have these amendments being dismissed as somehow inappropriate — we don’t ever do this,” Woodall said, his voice rising. “What purpose does this achieve? But no one can explain it to me, a sitting member of this committee?”

Cole added that his amendment was a matter of “simple fairness,” and an effort to correct a flagrant “double standard.”

“If it’s not important for the majority, then it shouldn’t be important for the minority,” Cole said.

McGovern, the chair, interjected that the standards were the same as those under the Nixon and Clinton impeachments. But, Cole responded that McGovern’s statements were “factually inaccurate,” and that if the Rules Committee had fact-finding hearings, instead of a meeting, then he could better make his case on that point.


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