The impeachment update

First up today, the impeachment news with no time limit. Today is an important day, and we’ve got a lot to talk about. So let’s get into it.

First up, yesterday the House Rules Committee wrapped up its work on the rules for today’s debate after a marathon session in a small room. Late last night, they voted to approve what amounts to the schedule for today. So let’s run through that schedule.

The House began proceedings at 9am Eastern time. Then there was a planned one-hour period to debate the rules themselves. That “hour” took about three hours. Then there is a planned six-hour period for debate on the articles of impeachment themselves, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. That is happening as I say these words. By the way, Republicans introduced an amendment first thing today moving to adjourn. That amendment failed. They also requested a change to the rules, so that a 12-hour period would be allowed, rather six hours. That also failed. They also asked that the final votes not be electronic, but instead be verbal. That failed too. We can expect that pattern to continue, and each vote adds time to the clock.

Now, the schedule specifies a six-hour debate window. But there are many ways that could change. Reading from an article by Philip Bump for The Washington Post:

“Six hours can include “magic minutes” of indefinite duration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi […], Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy […] and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer […] have special privileges that allow them to use as much time as desired, with the total being counted as only one minute of the allotted [six] hours. [Washington Post reporter Paul] Kane notes that former House speaker John A. Boehner […] once had an hour-long “minute” during a debate over an environmental bill in 2009. Pelosi herself packed 486 minutes into a “minute” during a debate last year.
She’s not likely to use up hours and hours of time on Wednesday — but we can reasonably expect that McCarthy’s minute will be anything but.”

That’s just one magic method by which this debate could stretch out. Various procedural things could come up, and those could extend the overall debate period by quite a bit. The current schedule is for a vote around 7:30pm Eastern time today. By the time you hear this, you might already know whether that happened on time or not. Judging from how things gone so far today, I would expect it to happen considerably later, or perhaps even push to tomorrow.

All right, so that’s the order of business for today. What else is going on? Well, House Speaker Pelosi has said she is not whipping this vote. That means she is not engaging in a formal process of trying to make sure Democrats vote for impeachment. We also don’t have a formal whip count, which is the number of known votes either way.

But The Washington Post has been running its own tally based on public statements by members of Congress. According to their tally, the articles will pass, with two or three Democrats voting against the articles.

Let’s take a moment to rewind to last night, when some other remarkable stuff happened. President Trump sent an open letter to House Speaker Pelosi protesting the upcoming impeachment vote. You can read that letter in the show notes, and there are also three annotated versions that do thorough fact-checks. Each of them reveals major factual problems. Also, you don’t need a fact-checker to see how immensely angry and frustrated the president is that all of this impeachment stuff is happening.

But the president gets many of his facts wrong in that letter. I think it’s important to note that, because this is an extraordinary document. I suspect that one day, that letter will be put under glass and people will go look at it in the capitol and wonder how exactly any of this happened. I encourage you to go read it for yourself. It is really something.

Okay, so what else happened last night? Hundreds of rallies across the nation. They were called the “Nobody is Above the Law” demonstrations, and there were an estimated 600 of them, though many of those were relatively small. It’s hard to estimate the overall number of people who took to the streets last night, but some of the biggest events, like the one in Times Square, drew thousands of people. Most of the events were much smaller.

Also yesterday, Speaker Pelosi sent a “dear colleague” letter to fellow Democrats, calling the impeachment debate a “very prayerful moment in our nation’s history.”

President Trump also tweeted early this morning, saying again that he did nothing wrong, but urging Americans to, “Say a prayer.”

Well, at least they agree on something.

Assuming the vote on articles of impeachment does happen today, the House may also vote to allow Speaker Pelosi to appoint “impeachment managers.” These are House members who would then appear in the Senate in a role roughly like a prosecutor in a trial. If that happens, it would happen quite late in the day, so, you know, maybe tomorrow. Or even Friday. Keep in the mind that this is the last week before a Congressional recess, so this either wraps up by the end of day on Friday, or Pelosi just keeps everybody there until business is complete.

So what happens next? Well, the Senate will have to form its own rules for an impeachment trial. That process is expected to be equally complex. One interesting tidbit is that technically that trial is supposed to happen immediately after approval of the articles, though nobody seems to oppose the idea of pushing that process to January.

Biden releases a health summary

Yeah, all right, so what else has been going on? Well, former Vice President Joe Biden released a report on his health. It was written by the same doctor who oversaw his care as Vice President. The headline there is that Biden doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, works out five days a week, and has a variety of minor health problems. All of those are being treated, mostly with over-the-counter drugs.

For instance, he has a history of atrial fibrillation, which, to oversimplify things, is an occasional irregular heartbeat. He takes a blood thinner, which may help guard against potential ill effects of that. He also suffers from gastroesophageal reflux, which is something I used to have, which is why I can pronounce it—they call it GERD—and he takes an over-the-counter drug to treat that. He also has seasonal allergies, and again, uses over-the-counter drugs for those. And he has been treated for a variety of minor injuries over the years, and was asthmatic when he was much younger.

The report also deals with a cerebral aneurysm Biden had back in 1988. According to the report, this has not recurred and is actively monitored by his doctor. This was also something that was detailed in previously released medical notes when Biden became Vice President.

You can read the actual report in the show notes, as well as a non-doctor-ese version of it published by The Washington Post.

It’s also worth mentioning that most other major candidates who are in their 70s have also released medical reports. Those include Senator Elizabeth Warren and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. There are links to those in the show notes as well.

The gist of it is that according to these reports, all of these folks are in pretty good health for their age. Bloomberg, by the way, also has atrial fibrillation, but go read that report if you want the details.

Senator Bernie Sanders has said he will release comprehensive medical records by the end of this year. When that happens, it will complete the list of all the major Democrats in the field who are age 70 or older.

Collins is running again for Senate in Maine

Next up, a quick item. Senator Susan Collins of Maine announced today that she will run for a fifth term. She has been in campaign mode for months now, but held off on officially announcing her run until this morning.

Collins is a relatively moderate Republican, and she faces a variety of challengers for her seat, from both parties. Reading from an article by James Arkin in Politico:

“Maine is a critical state for the GOP's Senate majority, and Collins’ announcement is a major boost for Republicans. It would have been extremely difficult for the party to hold the seat had Collins decided to retire.”

So, even with Collins running, this is still a race to watch. Collins has had some pretty bad poll numbers in Maine lately, and she faces a real problem with regard to her upcoming impeachment vote. This is where impeachment intersects directly with the election. While a “guilty” vote would likely bring some support from Democrats in Maine for the general election—and she’s gonna need some of those votes to win the statewide election—a “guilty” vote might cause her to lose the Republican primary, given the massive support President Trump enjoys among Republican voters. So, add Maine’s Senate race to the list of ones to check back in on.

Bennet says he needs money to keep going

Here’s another quick item. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado announced that his campaign needs to raise $700,000 dollars by January 16th in order to remain in the presidential race, and compete in New Hampshire. He released an ad on YouTube, and said he would launch that ad more broadly if he hit the goal.

Given that Bennet raised more than $2 million dollars in Q3, it is conceivable that he could meet this new goal. Having said that, his polling is extremely low at the moment. According to a polling average maintained by FiveThirtyEight, Bennet currently has 0.1% of the vote in New Hampshire. Compare that to the frontrunners, Buttigieg and Sanders, who are both at roughly 18% right now. So…you know, there’s some catching up to do.

Three candidates will not appear on the Vermont primary ballot

And another quick one. Three major Democratic candidates have chosen not to appear on the Vermont primary ballot. They are Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Cory Booker, and former Representative John Delaney. In a CNN story, each campaign explained that their candidate was unlikely to hit the 15% threshold in that state, so they opted to spend their time and resources elsewhere.

Just a reminder, as a general rule, a Democratic candidate much reach 15% in any given state to get any delegates from that state. So if you’re polling way below 15, you might not even bother with that state. Also, if, for instance, Senator Bernie Sanders is FROM THAT STATE, he’s probably gonna get a lot of that vote. So this is strategy at work.

An update on Wisconsin’s pending voter purge

Last up today, an update-slash-correction on the situation with voter roll purges in Wisconsin. Thanks to listener Josh Dukelow [“DUKE-low”] for pointing this out, and also previously explaining how to pronounce the name of Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers [“EE-vers”]. I have a Word file now that lists all these people’s names and how to pronounce them. I will sell you that list for a lot of money.

Anyway, here’s the correction. I reported earlier this week that 234,000 voters had been removed from voter rolls in Wisconsin, but that is incorrect. Although the court had ordered that removal, there are two aspects there that I got wrong.

First, the Wisconsin Election Commission is waiting on an appeal to actually purge those voters. So no purge has actually happened yet, and in theory it might not happen at all. The state’s Attorney General has requested a stay of the judge’s order to execute the purge. Plus, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin has filed a federal suit to stop the purge. Point being, there is plenty more legal battling to go before the actual purge.

Second, the number of voters at issue is more nuanced than I suggested. That original number of 234,000 people came from ERIC, which is the Electronic Registration Information Center. ERIC is a nonprofit that works with member states on voter registration data. They keep track of addresses and things like car registrations, so that voter rolls can be updated. ERIC returned that total number as potential voters to be reviewed. That’s the big, high-end limit of who could be purged. And that’s the number of mailers sent out in October asking voters to confirm their registration status.

Okay, so according to reporting by Bruce Vielmetti and Patrick Marley in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, just under 19,000 of those people have already responded as of December 5th either by confirming their address, or re-registering at a new one. So the total number we’re looking at for a purge would be lower.

So with all that out of the way, I will keep you posted as new purges emerge.