The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Walk Time

Rich Galen

Thursday December 19, 2019

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  • I was going to wait to begin writing this until the actual votes to impeach Donald J. Trump were recorded.

  • But, I got tired of hearing the Members of both the minority and majority struggle to find just the right combination of words worthy of having their 30 seconds, or two minutes engraved on their headstones.

  • The rules of the debate were that it would take six hours evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

  • There was a time when I had what is known as "Floor Access." In 1989 Newt Gingrich was the Republican Whip and I was his press secretary. These were the days when press secretary was the highest ranking person in the comms area.

  • There was no such thing as a communications director in the House or Senate. Indeed, when I was Senator Dan Quayle's chief communications person I held the title of press secretary and I was the total communications shop. Quayle, you may remember, won re-election (well after I had moved on) to his Senate seat by a huge majority.

  • Where was I?

  • Oh, yes. Floor access.

  • I had coveted Floor access as a member of the Leadership Staff.

  • If you watched the floor debate you saw a staffer with a stack of paper handing one at a time to the Member allotting "30 seconds to the Gentleman (or Gentlewoman) from Upper Iguana" on the D or R side of the aisle.

  • Each sheet has the name (and home state) of a speaker and how much time he or she has been allotted.

  • That activity was way above my pay grade - plus it was not unlikely I would drop the whole stack and no one would know whose turn it was to speak, nor for how long.

  • A job I was occasionally assigned was, during a major debate, to make sure that the Republicans scheduled to speak were in the Chamber, near the front of the Chamber, next to the Leadership Desk where the microphone is and, when it was his turn, standing in front of the microphone.

  • Somewhere in the area of 180 - maybe more - Members desired to share their unique thoughts for or against impeaching Trump.

  • There are staffers who work for the Clerk of the House who have actual stopwatches (in my day they went "tick-tick-tick," today they're a smartphone app) to keep track of how much time each side has used up and how much is remaining.

  • Let's say the 180 number is correct.

  • Without the Member wranglers on the floor, it might take 15 seconds for a member to make his or her way to the mike at either the leadership table (preferred by the staff) or the lecturn in the Well of the House (not so much).

  • The clock starts when the managers announces the Member's name and the amount of time allotted. If every speaker took just 10 seconds, never mind 15, that would add up to 45 minutes (equally divided) when no one was speaking but the Members sat in silence waiting for someone to make their way to a speaking position.

  • This was one of my jobs: "Mr. Smith you will follow Mr. Jones. You will have 35 seconds. As you saw at about 6:30 last night, there was a parade of Members asking "unanimous consent" to have their remarks inserted into the Congressional Record rather than actually taking time on the floor.

  • In my early days I asked (only half kiddingly) if they had rehearsed their statement so they knew how long it really was. A few complaints about an uppity staffers and I left them to the ignominy of having the Chair click the gavel and say the "time of the gentleman has expired" and get cut off just before they got to the really hot finish.

  • They, too, had to be lined up and ready to read the request that was lying on the table in front of them for their use - and so they didn't launch into a soliloquy disguised as a unanimous consent request.
    "Please, just read the statement you'll find on the table."

  • The House was gaveled into session at 9:00 AM to debate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the debate on the impeachment resolution.

  • In a debate with the solemnity of an impeachment, it is customary for senior leaders to close the debate. By tradition, they are not gaveled down no matter how much time they take.

  • In this case the Senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins (R-Ga) officially closed for the Republicans even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca) was granted one minute to speak last. He ran way over but was not gaveled down.

  • Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) closed for the Democrats, until the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-Ca) decided he needed some TV time and used up the remainder of the Democrats' time.

  • Finally, at nine minutes after eight, the voting on the first Article of Impeachment, officially known as H. Res. 755, began. The first charge is Abuse of Power. Trump was impeached by a vote of 230-197. Two Ds voted against (one, Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), voted "Present"); no Rs voted for impeachment on this count.

  • When Speaker Pelosi announced the result of the vote, a few Democrats began to clap, but she glared over to her side of the House and cut them off. Republicans jeered at her gesture.

  • The second is Obstruction of Congress. Trump was impeached by a vote of 229-198 with three Democrats voting "No." Again, the Republicans were solid with no Rs voting for the second article.

  • Whether you agree or disagree with the result, the stain of Impeachment will be upon Donald J. Trump for the rest of his life.

  • The House adjourned at 8:52 just short of 12 hours from when it opened.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Wikipedia entry on House impeachments and the text of Nancy Pelosi's opening statement.

    The Mullfoto is of a candle we found while digging out Christmas ornaments.

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