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House of accommodations: Impeachment managers find ways to vote

Life goes on across Rotunda for prosecutors in Senate trial

House impeachment managers, from left, Sylvia R. Garcia, Val B. Demings, Jason Crow and Hakeem Jeffries are seen in the Capitol on Friday before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House impeachment managers, from left, Sylvia R. Garcia, Val B. Demings, Jason Crow and Hakeem Jeffries are seen in the Capitol on Friday before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia has never missed a vote — not in her first term so far in the House and not in the six years she served in the Texas state Senate.

The freshman Democrat’s perfect attendance could’ve been in jeopardy this week since she is one of the seven House impeachment managers prosecuting the chamber’s case in the Senate trial of President Donald Trump. But fortunately for Garcia, House Democratic leaders are keeping the floor schedule flexible to ensure the managers can participate in votes.

“We’re trying to accommodate [the schedule] to make it so they can vote,” Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said.

On Monday, the House had two votes starting around 6:30 p.m. A dinner break in the trial allowed the managers to get to the first vote without issue, but the trial had resumed by the time the second vote was called. So leadership held the vote open and the managers ducked out of the trial in small groups to cross the chamber and register their votes.

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Garcia was among the first group to go vote, along with Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, the lead manager from California, followed on his own shortly after. Reps. Val B. Demings of Florida and Jason Crow of Colorado came as a duo after him.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York did not vote Monday. He had already announced he would be missing the trial that day to accompany his wife, who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, as she met with doctors to determine the next steps for treatment.

It was easier for managers to make House votes Tuesday because the president’s lawyers concluded their defense in about two hours. The managers even had time for a quick press conference before heading to votes.

“Absolutely, that’s why we’re going to vote right now,” Garcia told CQ Roll Call afterward about whether she had talked to leadership about ensuring she would keep her perfect-attendance voting record during the Senate trial.

‘Get on the board’

Schiff said after Monday’s votes that he hopes the managers can participate in other floor votes this week. While he would’ve preferred the Senate accommodate House votes with brief recesses so House managers didn’t have to step out of the trial, Schiff said, “at least we can make sure we get on the board.”

Hoyer indicated the Senate won’t be planning its breaks around House votes but rather the House may adjust its schedule to accommodate them. In cases where the votes don’t fall during trial breaks, Hoyer said they’ll follow the method of bringing the managers over in groups so there is always a manager on the floor of the Senate.

While Hoyer was happy to make accommodations for the managers to vote, he said he personally advises members like Garcia not to be worried about perfect attendance.

“That’s against my advice. I think a member ought to miss some votes,” Hoyer said, noting some lawmakers “get so fixed” on their voting records that they don’t have any flexibility to miss votes when they’re sick or have to attend to other personal matters.

As a member of the Texas state Senate, Garcia in 2015 tweeted that she was sick in bed and under doctor’s care but thankfully it was after the legislative session, during which she hadn’t missed any of the 3,909 votes. In the tweet, she included a letter from the secretary of the Texas Senate commending her for her 100 percent voting record.

Missing other things

The managers may not miss any votes this week, but they are missing out on most parts of their House day jobs to be in the Senate for the trial. That’s a reason some members didn’t jump at the opportunity to serve as managers.

Jeffries even told reporters before Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her seven picks that he didn’t expect to be a manager. “I have a day job,” he said at the time.

The Democratic Caucus chairman has already missed some of those day-job duties he had hoped to keep doing through the trial. The only member of leadership serving as a manager, he missed Pelosi’s weekly leadership meeting Monday because the trial was still ongoing.

On Tuesday morning, the court of impeachment had not yet gaveled in but the House managers typically spend their mornings prepping for what’s to come that day.

All seven managers missed the Democratic Caucus meeting at 9 a.m., a weekly gathering held offsite this week at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee headquarters a few blocks from the Capitol.

Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine M. Clark told CQ Roll Call that she briefly opened the meeting “with our champion of democracy otherwise engaged,” referring to Jeffries, who normally kicks off caucus gatherings.

Last week, as most House members were in their districts or on the overseas congressional delegation trips, known as CODELs, impeachment managers spent their recess week presenting the House case for why Trump should be impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

This week, as their House colleagues return to Washington to legislate, the House managers are expected to miss out on committee proceedings, constituent meetings and other daily business to focus on the trial.

‘Doing God’s work’

Demings told CQ Roll Call she won’t be able to participate in committee activities this week — which for her includes a Wednesday markup of seven bills in the Homeland Security Committee — but her constituents understand her current obligation takes priority.

“When I was home in the district doing MLK weekend, while many people say no one’s paying attention, I cannot tell you how many times people mentioned the impeachment inquiry, the impeachment trial and [that] we’re basically doing God’s work,” the Florida Democrat said.

Five of the seven impeachment managers are members of the Judiciary Committee. The panel has no full committee meetings scheduled this week, but it had a subcommittee hearing Tuesday and another scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Nadler, as chairman, has a right to attend any subcommittee hearing. He did not attend Tuesday’s discussion about fentanyl at the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee. Neither did Demings, the subcommittee’s vice chairwoman, and Jeffries, a member.

Lofgren, who chairs the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee holding the Wednesday hearing, said she plans to open the proceedings but won’t be able to stay for the discussion on due process in immigration courts because the managers will be busy preparing for the Q&A portion of the trial that begins that afternoon. Garcia is also a member of the subcommittee.

A House Science Committee hearing scheduled for the same time Wednesday means that Lofgren likely would not have taken her seat as that panel discusses the U.S. losing ground in critical technologies, even if she weren’t serving as an impeachment manager.

Lofgren is also chairwoman of the House Administration Committee but that panel has no public meetings scheduled for this week. Likewise, there is no public business scheduled in the Intelligence Committee that Schiff leads.

Crow serves on the Armed Services Committee, which had a hearing Tuesday on security in the Korean peninsula that he missed, and the Small Business Committee, which has a Wednesday hearing to review Small Business Association field operations.

Jeffries is a member of the Budget Committee that will hear from the Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday on its budget and economic outlook, likely without him present.

Garcia may miss a Financial Services Committee hearing Wednesday to examine whether the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is undermining the intent of the Community Reinvestment Act.

Several Democratic aides for the impeachment managers and for leadership contacted for this story did not return requests for comment.

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