Republicans Fail in Last-Ditch Efforts to Kill Democrats' Impeachment Articles Against Trump

The House Judiciary Committee spent more than 14 hours on Thursday marking up the two articles of impeachment filed against President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, a procedural process before the articles undoubtedly pass that featured partisan arguments and amendments from Republicans that sought to invalidate the articles.

By hour 12 of the proceeding GOP members had proposed five failed amendments. The first and the fifth, from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), would have eliminated both articles; the second, from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), would've inserted the terms "Hunter Biden" and "Burisma" into the articles' text; the third, from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), concerned military aid to Ukraine; and the fourth, by Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), would have removed the obstruction of Congress article.

At approximately 11:15 p.m., Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) unexpectedly announced the vote to advance the articles to the full House would be postponed until Friday at 10 a.m.

Jordan's first amendment was defeated along party lines after roughly 2.5 hours of debate, time that lawmakers used to trade barbs and make their respective cases for or against impeachment.

Judiciary Committee passes articles of impeachment
Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) listens during the House Judiciary Committee's markup of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on December 12. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

"This amendment strikes Article One because Article One ignores the truth," Jordan said.

The fierce Trump defender went on to lay out Republicans' four pillars of defense, which they've issued throughout the impeachment inquiry: there was no quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine's president, Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart said there was no pressure for politically motivated probes by that country, Ukraine was unaware about the withheld military aid and the country's officials took no action to conduct the desired investigations.

Jordan and other Republicans repeated identical claims about Ukraine's unawareness of the withheld military assistance. However, that claim was undercut by a top Pentagon official, Laura Cooper, who testified to Congress that Ukraine officials began asking her about the aid in July.

Cooper said a Ukraine official emailed a member of her staff at the time, asking, "What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?"

His second amendment, which sought to kill both articles, also failed.

doomed Republican amendments impeachment articles
Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup hearing on the articles of impeachment against President Trump on December 12. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty

After several more hours of debate, Gaetz's amendment suffered the same fate as Jordan's first one. It would have replaced the articles' reference to "Joe Biden"—as the target of the probe Trump wanted Ukraine to undertake—with "the true topic of the investigation: Burisma and Hunter Biden," the Republican said. (Burisma is the Ukrainian gas company whose board once included Biden's son Hunter.)

"An essential element of the Democrats' case on abuse of power is that the Bidens did nothing wrong," Gaetz continued. "It can only be an abuse of power and not a correct use of power if the president was pursuing something under which there was no reasonable basis to ask a question about Hunter Biden and Burisma."

A third amendment came from Biggs, the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. The proposal would insert into the articles that the withheld aid was "consistent with Administration policy to ensure foreign aid is not used for corrupt purposes." It would also assert that the aid was eventually released following the Ukrainian president's signing of anti-corruption measures, "convincing President Trump that the new Ukrainian administration was serious about reform measures."

Biggs' amendment was shot down along party lines.

Reschenthaler's amendment, which suffered the identical fate of his colleagues' amendments, would've eliminated the entirety of Article Two, the obstruction of Congress charge. He argued the White House's refusal to cooperate throughout the inquiry was justified because the Executive Branch is afforded the right to challenge subpoenas issued by Congress.

"The facts simply do not align with the Democrats' claim of obstruction," the freshman lawmaker said. "Our government has three branches for a reason. When there is a disagreement between the Executive and the Legislative Branch, it is supposed to be resolved by the third branch: the court."

Guy Reschenthaler offers fourth amendment impeachment articles
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) listens to testimony by constitutional scholars before the House Judiciary Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 4 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The lone amendment from Democrats came from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). It would replace "Donald J. Trump" with "Donald John Trump."

The proposal was quickly chastised by the committee's ranking member, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who characterized the amendment as "absolutely irrelevant." He said it represents "the absurdity to where we're at."

Nadler's amendment passed by voice vote.

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