The U.S. House moved toward impeaching Donald Trump for a history-making second time Wednesday and could send the single article quickly to the Senate for a trial that risks disrupting President-elect Joe Biden’s plans for a rapid start to his administration.
The House began debate shortly after 9 a.m., with the impeachment resolution vote expected by mid-to-late afternoon. Democrats and some Republicans seethed over Trump’s role inciting last week’s mob attack on the Capitol and the president’s once-firm control over the Republican Party began to break down.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he expects the impeachment article to be sent soon after to the Senate, which would then hold a trial, instead of delaying the process until after the start of Biden’s tenure, as some Democrats have suggested.
“There are consequences to actions, and the actions of the president of the United States demand urgent, clear action, by the Congress of the United States,” Hoyer said Wednesday on the House floor.
Hoyer told reporters that the decision on when to send the single article of impeachment ultimately was up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but that the two have discussed it.
“My expectation is that we will send it over as quickly as it is ready,” he said. Pelosi hasn’t publicly announced her plan.
Trump’s impeachment appeared inevitable with the resolution’s sponsors claiming unified support from Democrats and several Republicans, including Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House GOP leader and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, saying they would back it.
To defend against new assaults on the Capitol by right-wing activists between now and Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, the grounds were transformed into an an armed camp. National Guard troops holding rifles stood along a newly erected 7-foot non-scalable metal fence encircling the Capitol. Inside the building, more troops, some of whom slept overnight in the building, crowded hallways, cafeterias and the rotunda. Vehicles were stopped blocks away.
The timing of a Senate trial could complicate Biden’s efforts to get cabinet officials approved by the Senate since lawmakers would be occupied by an impeachment trial.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has raised the possibility of invoking a 2004 emergency session law to convene a trial this week, although such a move would require the consent of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Regardless of whether Trump is convicted in the Senate, a second impeachment would further stain a presidency that has culminated in a frightening assault on the storied center of American democracy. It also opened fissures in the Republican Party that portends a power struggle over its future.
The New York Times reported that McConnell has told associates he is privately pleased with the impeachment, calculating that it will make it easier to purge the party of Trump’s influence.