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By “dragging feet” in presenting articles of impeachment to the Senate which a majority of the House has voted to present, is Pelosi exceeding her authority?

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Two timelines

December 19, 1998

H.Res.611 - Impeaching William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Resolved, That William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate: ...

H.Res.614 - Appointing and authorizing managers for the impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States.

Resolved, That ... are appointed managers to conduct the impeachment trial against William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, that a message be sent to the Senate to inform the Senate of these appointments, and that the managers so appointed may, in connection with the preparation and the conduct of the trial, exhibit the articles of impeachment to the Senate and take all other actions necessary, which may include the following: ...


December 18, 2019

H.Res.755 - Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Resolved, That Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate: ...

Date ?

H.Res.??? - Appointing and authorizing managers for the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, President of the United States.

???


By “dragging feet” in presenting articles of impeachment to the Senate which a majority of the House has voted to present, is Pelosi exceeding her authority?

Not at all. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi controls the agenda; unless members of the House choose to override the control of that agenda.

The House has yet to write, let alone approve, the second resolution authorizing the House managers to exhibit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, among other authorities.

To be clear, the first resolution says these are the articles to be exhibited; the second resolution identifies those who have authority to exhibit those articles.


How long can the Speaker of the House wait to pass the impeachment to the Senate?

As long as the Speaker's party chooses to allow.

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It depends from what the authority granted actually was. The authority here is to control the business of the House of Representatives, which is very much within the remit of its Speaker.

As I mentioned in https://politics.stackexchange.com/a/48978/10121 , the U.S. impeachment process originated in the U.K. (and predecessor states') Parliament's impeachment process. In that process, as Erskine May notes, there are three stages in the lower house: voting for impeachment, then voting to approve Articles of Impeachment, then electing managers to conduct the trial process in the upper house.

The U.S. Constitution is mute upon these exact details. Often, in such cases where the U.S. Constitution is mute, people have looked to the original process for guidance. And one can see that, for example, even though the U.S. Constitution says nothing about managers, the idea of trial managers from the lower house has been copied from the U.K. Parliament's impeachment process.

As such, the current U.S. process is still waiting for House of Representatives resolutions authorizing the subsequent stages of the process.

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that states a time limit on this. The only rules that apply are the House of Representatives' own rules on its proceedings. They are largely mute on that, too. Although it is a generally settled principle that some parts of the process need to be reauthorized if they last through into a new session of the House of Representatives, the overall impeachment process leading up to the trial can last, and has in the past lasted, for months, over recesses and into new sessions.

And you will find that the so-called Jefferson's Manual for the House of Representatives in chapter 53 ("Impeachment") quotes at length, and references over and over, the U.K. Parliament's decisions and procedures when it comes to impeachment.

Like in the U.K. Parliament, …

  • … the formal transmission of the fact of impeachment, the passing of a vote to impeach, is by a member of the lower house reporting this at the bar of the upper house;
  • … managers have been appointed by a separate resolution (or elected, or appointed by the Speaker under authority of a standing order);
  • … the Articles of Impeachment are furthermore separate from from the resolution appointing managers and the resolution to impeach, and require the House of Representatives' separate approval.

So, whilst past practice has often been to consider all of these things in quick succession, they are separate, the House of Representatives does go through this in stages, and it may decide to pause in between each.

The situation is even more extreme in the U.K. Parliament. Having gone through the whole process of impeachment resolution, electing managers, approving articles, presenting evidence and examining witnesses in a trial, and requesting a guilty/not guilty vote, the House of Commons in the U.K. Parliament has in past cases asserted its right to stop the process there, and not request that the House of Lords pass sentence.

Further reading

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