DeGette Offers An Inside View Of What It Was Like To Run The Impeachment Debate

Trump Impeachment
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., the speaker pro tempore, presides as the House of Representatives begins the day for debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.

What does it take to preside over the U.S. House of Representatives for 11 hours during a bitter partisan debate? Comfortable shoes, peppermint tea and the right temperament coupled with a stern look when needed.

That’s what Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette says helped her through Wednesday’s marathon debate over the articles of impeachment against President Trump. 

She was honored when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her to preside. 

“It’s such a serious and solemn moment,” DeGette said. “They need somebody up there who can give that gravitas, who can conduct the debate in a fair and equal way. And in a way that’s respectful to the institution.”

It was a historic moment for many reasons. The nature of the debate and that it was the first time the Democratic Party presided over an impeachment. 

But not everything was new; the floor debate on both sides of the aisle was managed largely by white men, Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler and Ranking member Doug Collins. DeGette was aware that taking up the gavel would show a woman in a position of high authority. For her it demonstrated why it was “even more important to have a woman in the chair.”

Praise for the way DeGette conducted the cantankerous process came in from all corners. She received a standing ovation from her Democratic colleagues at Thursday’s caucus meetings. And Republican Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee ended his floor speech Wednesday night telling DeGette she was “doing a wonderful job.”

DeGette’s job was more than managing time; it was about ensuring decorum on the floor.

Her 30-year-old daughter texted during the hours-long session to tell her she was “perfect” for the job. After all, DeGette’s daughter reminded her, she spent 26 years refereeing arguments between her two kids.

And after watching DeGette for hours, even the viewer could tell when her right hand started to twitch that she was getting ready to smack down the gavel.

“Republicans were telling me that if they started getting a little over the edge and I just looked at them, they knew they had to calm down,” DeGette said.

And ultimately, DeGette said this is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her to preside over most of the debate. 

“She knew that I could keep the debate in an orderly way. And she knew that trouble wouldn’t break out if I was presiding,” DeGette said with a chuckle.