NOEL KING, HOST:
After nearly a month of waiting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ending her hold on the articles of impeachment.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Those articles of impeachment - one, abuse of power; two, obstruction of Congress - will be transmitted to the Senate at some point tomorrow.
KING: That is House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries today setting up an historic vote to officially send the Senate the articles of impeachment, allowing a Senate trial to start in the next few days. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been following all of this from Capitol Hill. She's with me now. Hey, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: So now the Democrats are ready to send the articles of impeachment. How exactly will this process work?
SNELL: Well, there will be a vote tomorrow at a time to be determined by the speaker. And there'll be some pretty short debate, about five minutes - well, exactly five minutes - for each side to make their case. There's no chance to amend it or have any protest votes at all. And then they will vote to transmit the articles.
And we are just hearing now that the managers for the House case in the Senate will be included in that bill. So we expect to hear at some point in time, before that vote, who those people will be because we just don't know yet. It'll likely be a small group. And according to several members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is just really keeping the decision about who they will be close to the vest.
And then it's a really formal process of notification. The House tells the Senate they're ready to send the articles over. The Senate says, OK, we're ready to receive them. And then they're placed into a box and walked across the Capitol, from the House to the Senate, where they're received by the secretary of the Senate.
KING: And then does the Senate trial start right away?
SNELL: Well, not exactly. There's a bunch of pretrial activity that really needs to happen. There is a summons to - that is sent to the White House. The White House then responds to the summons. And then they exchange briefs. And then after all of that happens, there is a swearing-in. The senators and the chief justice, John Roberts, are sworn in to go through this entire trial process.
But first, they need to finish up some work in the Senate before they can do any of this because once they start, they have to have unanimous agreement to do anything other than impeachment in the Senate. And they're in session six days a week, until they are done with the entire trial.
KING: Six days a week, OK. Six days a week for us, too.
SNELL: Every day but Sunday, yes.
KING: So Democrats are still pushing to have witnesses appear in the Senate.
KING: Are there any signs that Republicans might agree to that?
SNELL: Well, there are some Republicans who say they want to see witnesses, too. And there's been some talk about whether or not there are enough Republicans to vote with Democrats to call individual people - potentially, somebody like John Bolton, the former national security adviser, who has said he would appear before the Senate if he is subpoenaed.
But doing that kind of opens up a big can of worms. Once they call somebody like Bolton, Republicans are going to say, well, why don't we call Hunter Biden? And that puts Democrats on the spot to decide whether or not they're willing to call the son of a presidential candidate.
SNELL: And, you know, there's still no agreement about when that witness conversation should and would happen. Democrats want to have it before the trial starts, and they're going to try to force votes on witnesses before they, you know, hear any of the testimony. Republicans really want to wait until after opening statements and the very long 24-hours-on-each-side process goes - each side making their case. So there is some question about whether or not Republicans would actually vote with Democrats up front.
KING: Let me ask you a last question. Mitch McConnell says he's going to model the rules for the Senate trial based on the rules that were used for Bill Clinton's impeachment trial back in the '90s. How does that work?
SNELL: Right. So that's where this idea of 24 hours on each side comes from. There is 24 hours for the House to make their case - 24 hours of time in the Senate chamber, not 24 hours, like a full day. So this could stretch out over maybe more than a week. Then 24 hours for the president's side to make their case.
And then there's a period of time when senators get to submit written questions. They don't get to talk at all during this process. So if they have questions, they have to wait until the end, and then they have to write them down and pass them up to the front, essentially, and have them asked.
KING: Just so interesting. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, thank you.
SNELL: Have a good morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.