8 things to watch today as the impeachment trial gets underway

Jon Elswick/AP

It’s a big day: The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump will begin in earnest today, when senators take up a resolution setting the rules of the trial.

Here’s how we think today will play out:

  • Noon ET: The Senate will convene for leadership remarks. They will adjourn at 12:30 p.m. ET to prep the floor for the trial. 
  • 1 p.m. ET: the Senate impeachment trial will convene. We expect a few housekeeping items — including swearing-in GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe, who missed last Thursday’s session because of a medical situation in his family. 
  • After that: Senators are expected to quickly turn to a debate over Senate majority Leader McConnell’s organizing resolution to set the rules of the trial. 

The debate will last two hours, equally divided between both sides. We don’t expect the debate to take place between senators, as they are not allowed to speak at the trial. It will instead take place between the House impeachment managers and the President’s defense lawyers.  

Remember: That could change if any senator moves to go into a closed session and at least 51 senators vote to do so. If that happens, the public and press would be removed the chamber — as would the impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team — and the Senate would debate privately. We don’t know how long these closed sessions would last, if they happen.  

The Schumer amendment: After Tuesday’s debate on the McConnell resolution, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will offer an amendment. While we don’t know exactly what it will say, Schumer’s plan is likely to call either for witnesses generally or for a specific witness to be called to testify, as well as documents to be produced. 

The Schumer amendment will also be debatable for two hours. One hour for the supporters and one hour for the opponents. Time can be yielded back, so the full time doesn’t need to be used. A roll call vote on the amendment would then take place. 51 votes are needed for the amendment to be adopted. Senators will vote from their desks for all roll call votes during the trial. 

Schumer or other senators could then offer more amendments if they choose to. Each would be debatable for up to two hours. It’s not clear at this time how many amendments Democrats will offer, but Schumer said Monday night that he will offer a “whole series of amendments” to demand witnesses and documents be included in the trial. So, it could be a late night.

At some point, Democrats are expected to allow a vote on McConnell’s underlying organizing resolution, which requires 51 votes to pass and is expected to be adopted by Tuesday evening.

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