FILE – In this may 29, 2019, file photo, special counsel Robert Mueller Ministry, speaks at the judiciary on Wednesday in Washington, about the Russia investigation. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)
Three ubiquitous factors dominate everything on Capitol Hill. They are known as “the three P’s.” politics, policy, and procedures.
Politician hair-splitting is allowed, whether the policy is correct about a Problem. Members politically in step with their districts or States on a topic? Maybe so. Maybe not. You don’t have to be. And if a legislator strays too far away from his constituents, they often pay the price.
The legislature rings constantly about politics. This is the right approach for the defense. No, that is the correct policy for the defence. No, you are both wrong. Pols can be divided on how to treat problems at the border, immigration, health care or the debt ceiling. Your disposition can be correct or incorrect. But it doesn’t matter. The legislature did not legal to be on the policies they support or reject it.
And then there are procedures.
The policy can from the lot. The policy is doubtful can. But the procedure can not come out of alignment. Congress rules are the rules of the Congress. The Constitution is the Constitution. The house and Senate precedent, the house and Senate precedent. The only one of the three P’s must be on the goal of the procedure is.
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This brings us to the next Wednesday, the hearings with Special Counsel Robert Mueller before the house judiciary and intelligence committees. The committees are still in negotiations with Mueller’s team on the structure of the negotiation. First of all, Müller was ready to come, under a subpoena. So, the house issued a subpoena. Now, Müller has agreed to only two hours of interrogation per piece for both plates. But after two hours may not be enough.
It is a time issue. House rule XI, clause 2(J) States that “each Committee is the five-minute rule during the questioning of witnesses in a hearing until each member of the Committee who so desires has the opportunity to question each witness.”
In other words, each is required to provide the five minutes of questions.
The judiciary Committee consists of 41 members, 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans. If the Committee adheres to the house rule, which is 205 minutes of Q&A alone. Three hours and 25 minutes. And things that consume on Capitol Hill is always much more time than expected.
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Things are a little better for the Intelligence Committee. The panel has 22 members: 13 Democrats and nine Republicans. That would mean 110 minutes or one hour and 50 minutes. Still, there is not a lot of room.
Consider this: There are almost always opening speeches by the Chairman, the ranking minority member and the witness. The household consumes a few minutes. At a hearing of this magnitude, there is a high probability for interference from the audience and “parliamentary inquiries” from members about how the panel process. These questions could begin to be swallowed up by the assignments devour pretty quickly.
On the first day of the hearings for the Supreme Court, judge Brett Kavanaugh last September, senators argued for an hour and 17 minutes on the procedures, the documents, the delaying tactics and suffered different amount of interference in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), could eventually more than 12 words of his opening statement. All of this was even a couple of weeks before anyone heard anything about Kavanaugh’s Prosecutor Christine Blasey Ford.
So, what happens when legislators get involved, Müller questions? Unclear. But the procedure would be.
No one is quite sure where this is going.
House Judiciary Committee Democrats held a night long, closed-door session on the structure of the hearing on Wednesday. Most of the legislators emerged with few answers. Almost all responded that things were “in flux.” Reporters staking out the Conclave, whether “in the river” was a consistent topic of conversation Democrats part. You denied it.
“These are ongoing conversations,” said Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), as he walked through a hallway to avoid reporters.
“Is that done tonight?”, yours truly asked.
“It talks,” said Correa. “It can’t be settled until the day of the trial.”
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) is a freshman member of the legal Committee. You would probably one of the last members of the Mueller, due to their lack of seniority. Reporters asked whether she would also Müller, the question may be permissible.
“We are talking here about the format. We still have not decided,” replied Mucarsel-Powell. “We are still in negotiations with Mueller, the team on the right timing and how much time we have.”
Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is one of the sharpest members on the Democratic side of the aisle. She rarely has a reporter afraid to s question in the hall or a TV camera. But not on Wednesday evening. Jackson Lee headed for the Elevator.
“We are in preparation for a full hearing with Mr. Miller,” said Jackson Lee of-factly, as she slipped into an Elevator, closing the door on cue.
And it’s not just the Democrats who are disturbed.
“I’m really irritated,” said judiciary Committee member Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), who just returned to the house of 14 months. “I don’t even know to question him? This is simply wrong. I have chosen to decide exactly how someone elsewhere and for leadership in the Committee that only certain members and some members even on (the democratic side) of the gear – this is simply wrong.”
Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) tried to engage the Chairman of the legal Committee, Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on the topic during a meeting of the Board on Thursday morning.
“Could you lay out for us what exactly in terms of the Müller-hearing in the next week, exactly what is agreed and why they agreed?”, Roby asked.
Nadler responded, finally, after a pregnant and awkward pause.
“I’m not going to comment on that at this hearing. It is not the subject of this hearing,” said Nadler.
The concern for this hearing, however, exacerbated by the time pressure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she would not rules penetrated into the debate in an effort to preserve the institution or to placement of a contract.
“I wish we had more time. But I’m glad we have the time,” said Pelosi. “On the distribution of timing in the committees, I’ll leave that up to the President.”
Yes, Müller is coming next Wednesday. The policies of the Mueller could be right or wrong. The political attitudes of Democrats and Republicans on the Russia probe could be right or wrong.
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And if you only stick to two hours for each Committee – defense, many members of issues under house rules, the procedure incorrectly.