Dems move one step closer to impeachment with Rules Committee vote

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday approved six hours of debate on the House floor Wednesday on the resolution to impeach President Donald Trump.

The Rules panel announced the parameters of the impeachment debate after voting to approve the rule on the impeachment articles along party lines.

The six hours of floor time will be divided equally by Democrats and Republicans and will be led by the House Judiciary Committee leaders. The House will also have one hour of debate before taking the procedural vote to approve the rule governing the debate.

On Wednesday, the House will vote on the two articles of impeachment on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. No amendments will be allowed, according to the resolution approved by the rule-making committee Tuesday.

The House Rules Committee also allowed for the House to approve a resolution naming impeachment managers after the articles of impeachment have been passed.

The panel teed up the floor debate on the impeachment resolution following a lengthy and at times contentious exchanges between members as the panel ahead of the vote to make Trump the third president in US history to be impeached.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler did not appear at the House Rules Committee meeting due to a family medical emergency, House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern said Tuesday. A committee aide said that Nadler was expected back for floor debate on impeachment Wednesday.

In Nadler’s place, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat on the Judiciary and Rules panels, presented the Democrats’ case for impeaching the President.

“We present you not just with high crimes and misdemeanors, but a constitutional crime in progress, up to this very minute,” Raskin said.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, denounced the Democratic articles of impeachment as an attempt to make Trump’s impeachment like Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, saying Democrats have “failed so miserably.”

“The one thing they couldn’t do was find a crime,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of discussion about crimes, but they couldn’t find it in themselves to charge one.”

The rules panel met Tuesday morning and debated the impeachment articles for hours in the panel’s confined hearing room. Committee members pressed both Raskin and Collins on the allegations against the President’s dealings with Ukraine, the House’s investigation into the matter and the articles of impeachment that will receive a historic vote on Wednesday.

Democrats have introduced two articles of impeachment against the President, charging him with abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals while withholding a White House meeting and US security aid, and obstruction of Congress for directing his administration to flout subpoenas from the impeachment inquiry.

The Rules Committee, where Democrats have a 9-4 advantage, will set the parameters for the debate on impeachment on the floor, where the House is expected to vote on each article of impeachment against Trump on Wednesday.

“No one should be allowed to use the powers of the presidency to undermine our elections or cheat in a campaign. No matter who it is. And no matter their party,” McGovern said. “Today we’ll put a process in place to consider these articles on the House Floor. And when I cast my vote in favor, my conscience will be clear.”

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Rules panel, responded that the impeachment inquiry was “flawed and partisan from day one.”

“So, I guess it should come as no surprise that the Democrats’ preordained outcome is also flawed and partisan,” he said.

Trump weighed in on the impeachment process Tuesday with a blistering letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, charging that Democrats “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

In the Rules Committee, any House member can come to speak on the impeachment resolution. As a result, it’s unclear when the Rules Committee debate will wrap up and approve the rule for the impeachment resolution.

The House Judiciary Committee released a report early Monday morning explaining the two charges against Trump to help set up the floor debate. The report also included Republicans’ dissenting views that argue the President should not be impeached.

Ahead of Wednesday’s votes, numerous moderate Democrats from districts Trump won in 2016 have announced they plan to support impeachment, meaning there’s likely to be few defections among Democrats on the floor on Wednesday.

New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew is planning to switch parties and become a Republican in the wake of the impeachment. He said Tuesday there “will be a few” voters who are disappointed.

“I’m going to announce decisions I’ve made an appropriate time,” Van Drew said.

And Rep. Collin Peterson, a veteran Minnesota blue dog Democrat, is likely to vote no, though he declined to say how he would vote on Tuesday. “I told you I’m going to wait until I see everything. I haven’t seen everything yet,” he said.

Asked if it’s possible he’d vote for the articles, Peterson said: “No, it has nothing to with impeachment — I’m against the process.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

CNN’s Manu Raju and Haley Byrd contributed to this report.