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Road ahead: impeachment progress, judicial nominations and a Christmas tree

First open hearing at House Judiciary is set for Wednesday

The lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree, which arrived last week, will take place the same day as the next House impeachment hearing. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
The lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree, which arrived last week, will take place the same day as the next House impeachment hearing. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

In a sign of the season, the next open House impeachment hearing is scheduled to take place the same day as the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree.

The impeachment inquiry remains front and center as Congress returns this week, with the Senate continuing to methodically confirm the judicial nominations of President Donald Trump.

The spotlight on impeachment moves to its natural location as the House Judiciary Committee conducts a hearing Wednesday on the constitutional grounds for impeaching a president.

Up until this point, the House Intelligence panel has led the impeachment inquiry that Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in late September. Working with the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, it conducted depositions of 17 witnesses — 12 of whom the committee questioned again during public hearings.

The Intelligence Committee will meet Tuesday evening to adopt a report of its investigative findings and send it to House Judiciary. 

The Judiciary panel on Monday revealed the four academic witnesses who will testify Wednesday about the House’s impeachment power: Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School.

“Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement. Trump and White House counsel Pat Cipollone declined an invitation to participate in Wednesday’s hearing, accusing Nadler of purposefully scheduling it for when the president would be out of the country, attending a meeting of NATO leaders in London.

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Beyond the Christmas tree lighting, there is at least one measure on the House floor this week that will showcase bipartisan cooperation.

A bill to require phone companies to block robocalls without charging consumers is scheduled for a vote under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process requiring two-thirds support (and thus a bipartisan coalition) for passage.

The measure merges separate House and Senate versions of the legislation that passed the respective chambers earlier this year. It requires phone companies to verify that phone numbers are real, pushes the Justice Department to bring more criminal prosecutions against robocallers, and gives the Federal Communications Commission more time and authority to investigate scam calls.

Another measure that could draw some bipartisan support is a resolution expressing the sense of the House that “only the outcome of a two-state solution that enhances stability and security for Israel, Palestinians, and their neighbors can both ensure the state of Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.”

While both Democratic and Republican lawmakers support a two-state solution, the resolution only has Democratic co-sponsors.

It’s also unclear whether Republicans will support the other big bill on the House floor this week. The Insider Trading Prohibition Act would create a criminal statute defining insider trading, a judicial concept that has developed from decades of case law on general securities fraud prohibitions.

While the House returns Tuesday from the Thanksgiving holiday, senators were back at work Monday evening with perhaps the most immediately consequential vote of the week.

They voted, 70-15, to confirm Dan Brouillette as secretary of Energy before turning back to the steady stream of votes on Trump’s judicial nominations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has moved to limit debate on eight nominees to be district judges, starting with nominations for two seats in New York.

The most newsworthy of the many Senate hearings on the docket for the week might come Tuesday morning at the Foreign Relations Committee. The panel is scheduled to hear on U.S.-Russia policy from David Hale, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, and Christopher Ford, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation.

It’s interesting timing for such a hearing, since the president is at NATO meetings this week, where responding to Russian aggression is sure to be on the agenda.

Katherine Tully-McManus and Jim Saksa contributed to this report.