Capitol Hill Update: January 21, 2020


The Senate is in session. The House is in recess.


The Senate returns today at 12:30 pm. The impeachment trial will resume at 1:00 pm. The supplemental rules, or organizing resolution, will be considered when the trial resumes. This resolution, the text of which has not been released, will be debated for two hours by the impeachment managers and President Trump’s counsel. Democrats are expected to offer an amendment, which will be debated for two hours. McConnell will move to table the amendment. Democrats may offer another amendment. That’ll begin another two-hour debate and another tabling motion. Unless there’s an agreement to limit the number of amendments and the length of debate on the amendment, this process will continue. Eventually, there will be a vote on the resolution, amended or not. Passage requires only a simple majority. In any event, impeachment managers are expected to begin their opening arguments Wednesday afternoon.

The text of the organizing resolution hasn’t been formally rolled out, but CNN’s Manu Raju did tweet screenshots of the resolution on Monday evening. The impeachment managers and President Trump’s counsel will get 24 hours over two session days each to present on the floor of the Senate. Senators will have 16 hours to ask questions, which will be submitted in writing to Chief Justice Roberts. As I’ve noted before, S.Res. 16 was the organizing resolution during President Clinton’s trial. And also I’ve noted before, the resolution for witnesses during President Clinton’s trial came after the senators asked questions and the vote on the motion to dismiss. Again, the resolution that named witnesses and the rules around their depositions was S.Res. 30.

Unlike during the trial of President Clinton, both sides will get only two days to make their arguments. Unless there was an agreement separate from S.Res. 16 ahead of the arguments, there wasn’t a day-limit during President Clinton’s trial. (I’m not going through the Congressional Record to try to find that.) The handling of evidence is also different. In President Clinton’s trial, the evidence was admitted and made available to senators at the outset. The organizing resolution for President Trump’s trial allows the Senate to consider a motion to admit documents pursuant to H.Res. 660, which authorized the impeachment inquiry, after senators have questioned both parties and considered motions for witnesses and additional documents. We noticed while reviewing the organizing resolution that it doesn’t have a motion to dismiss. That’s another departure from S.Res. 16. It’s unlikely that there are 51 votes for such a motion, but we do find its absence interesting. Again, the organizing resolution is subject to amendments.

This is a bit of a blow to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) says that he will oppose witnesses during the first phase of the impeachment trial. “I have made clear to my colleagues and the public that the Senate should have the opportunity to decide on witnesses following the opening arguments, as occurred in the Clinton trial,” Romney said in a release. “If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts.”

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.


The House will return on Monday, January 27.