Senate passes McConnell impeachment rules after nearly 13 hours of debate

The organizing resolution was passed on a party line vote after a contentious session that led to a rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts.

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By Dareh Gregorian

The Senate passed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's resolution laying out a blueprint for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial along party lines early Wednesday after a day of back and forth between House prosecutors and attorneys for the White House.

The Republican majority had voted down several amendments proposed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to subpoena documents and call witnesses.

The vote came just before 2 a.m. Wednesday after Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the House impeachment managers, suggested that senators were voting for a "cover-up," which drew sharp responses from the president's legal counsel.

Chief Justice John Roberts admonished House managers and Trump's counsel "in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body."

"I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are," Roberts said.

Under the terms of the organizing resolution, the House case managers will have 24 hours over three days to make their arguments to remove the president from office on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. Attorneys for the White House likewise will have 24 hours over three days to state their case for acquittal.

Senators will then have 16 hours to submit questions to both sides before they decide whether to call witnesses or subpoena documents.

Full coverage of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial

The resolution also allows both sides to file motions not related to witnesses or documents by 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The plan proposed by McConnell, R-Ky., had been opposed by Democrats, who wanted a guarantee that they would be able to call witnesses and demand documents that the administration withheld during the House impeachment inquiry.

The vote wasn't a total loss for Democrats, however. McConnell changed two contested provisions at the last minute: one that would have required both sides to make their 24 hours of arguments in just two days and another that could have barred evidence gathered by the House.

Democrats complained that the two-day limit would have meant that they would be making arguments until 1 a.m. or later, depriving much of the public of the chance to watch the proceedings.

The other provision could have barred entering all of the evidence House Democrats gathered against Trump into the Senate record. The evidence now will be admitted automatically unless there's an objection, rather than depend on a proactive vote to admit it.

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The House case managers are expected to begin their opening arguments Wednesday afternoon.