Pelosi Considering Delay In Sending Articles Of Impeachment To The Senate
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is suggesting she might hold back on sending the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. This seems like a bad idea.
Last night after the House of Representatives voted to impeach the President, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested that she may seek to use parliamentary moves to delay the trial in the Senate until Senate Republicans make concessions in how the trial will be conducted:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office.
Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer.
“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”
Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis.
Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate.
By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.
Moments after a historic vote to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House could at least temporarily withhold the articles from the Senate — a decision, she suggested, that could depend on how the other chamber chooses to conduct its trial on Trump’s removal.
“We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” she said, referring to the House “managers” who present the case for removal to the Senate. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers.”
\The comments came as a group of House Democrats pushed Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders to withhold the articles — a notion that has gained traction among some on the political left as a way of potentially forcing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to conduct a trial on more favorable terms for Democrats. And if no agreement is reached, some have argued, the trial could be delayed indefinitely, denying Trump an expected acquittal.
Pelosi would not answer questions about whether she was entertaining an indefinite hold on the articles — one that could prevent a trial from taking place before the next presidential election.
“We’re not having that discussion,” she said, adding that it “would have been our intention” to send the articles forthwith, “but we’ll see what happens over there.”
She continued: “We’re not sending it tonight because it’s difficult to determine who the managers would be until we see the arena in which we will be participating.”
The remarks injected an unexpected wrinkle into a tightly choreographed day, in which a series of procedural votes and hours of floor debate paved the way for climactic votes after 8 p.m. on Trump’s impeachment — the third in U.S. history.
The notion has been most prominently advocated by Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor who has advised the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment process. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, he wrote that “the public has a right to observe a meaningful trial rather than simply learn that the result is a verdict of not guilty.”
As a matter of procedure, it is clear that the Senate trial cannot begin until the House of Representatives names its Impeachment Managers and sends the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Because of this, Pelosi at least has the law and procedure on her side since the rules governing impeachment in the Senate, which were used in 1868 and 1999 and which Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said he will abide by, specifically provide that the Senate trial cannot begin until the Articles are sent to the Senate and the House Impeachment Managers identified.
However, while this idea of withholding the Articles of Impeachment appears to be something that the House of Representatives can do, I am not sure that it is something that they should do. Both during the debate yesterday and during the hearings that took place in November and this month, Democrats pushed back on the idea that they were moving too fast on impeachment and that they should let the voters decide in 2020. In response, the Democrats argued that what the President did constituted attempting to influence the next election. Holding back the Articles of Impeachment, for an indefinite period or shorter seems as though the Democrats are walking back that argument and making impeachment seem less pressing and less important than it obviously is.
Additionally, it’s unclear how such a move would play with the American public as a whole. As I noted earlier this week, as it is the public is essentially evenly divided on the impeachment and removal question. Holding the Articles of Impeachment back, or otherwise being seen as trying to play partisan games then the public could end up backing the Senate. Finally, since we already know that the Senate trial is going to be a show trial anyway, the idea of trying to hold back the Articles of Impeachment to influence how the trial will be conducted seems like a waste of time.