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Pelosi hits the gas pedal on impeachment

QUID PRO GO Speaker Nancy Pelosi has officially given the green light to House Democrats on impeachment. The California Democrat on Thursday instructed her chairmen to start drafting articles of impeachment, igniting a sprint toward the finish line as Democrats try to wrap up their work before the Christmas break. Here’s what happens next:

Dems have to decide the scope and number of articles, which as Sarah and Heather reported yesterday, will be a fierce debate within the caucus. Judiciary Committee staff are even expected to work through the weekend. Then, on Monday, investigators will formally present their evidence to the Judiciary panel during a hearing. And today is also the deadline for the White House to decide whether Trump and his legal team will be participating in the rest of the House’s impeachment proceedings. The latest from Andrew and Kyle: https://politi.co/2rVfTiV.

Related reads: “Top Judiciary Republican Says White House Should Participate In Inquiry, With Caveats,” per NPR’s Jason Breslow: https://n.pr/2YkUJab; and “Pelosi announces intent to impeach Trump as constitutional clash intensifies,” from WaPo’s Mike DeBonis, Karoun Demirjian and Seung Min Kim: https://wapo.st/2Ltv222.

PELOSI IS LIVING ON A PRAYER — Pelosi long resisted impeachment, a politically risky — and potentially legacy defining — move. But she said the president has left them “no choice,” calling it a “prayerful” time and framing the situation as “sad” and “unfortunate”. But now that the speaker has reluctantly arrived at impeachment, she’s doing it her way — “in four inch heels and with an iron grip,” write Sarah, Bres and Heather. The story on how Pelosi went from impeachment skeptic to impeachment micro-manager: https://politi.co/369l25P.

Case in point … According to the New York Times, the night before the first House Intelligence Committee hearing on impeachment, the speaker “line-edited” Chairman Adam Schiff’s opening statement to help “sharpen his point.” The edit that Pelosi suggested? Changing the word “was” to “is.” Sheryl Gay Stolberg with the story: https://nyti.ms/2DP6rAj.

Related: “5 key lines from Nancy Pelosi’s CNN town hall,” via CNN: https://cnn.it/2Pj6TMz.

REPUBLICAN REALITY CHECK — Trump and his allies have been eager to go on offense in a Senate impeachment trial, where they will be on friendlier turf and can haul in their own witnesses. “This is a chance to tell the other side of the story,” said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah). But Senate Republicans are making clear that there are limits to what they can do, and are pouring cold water on the House GOP’s witness wishlist. “You got two different bodies here,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “Are we going to start calling House members over here when we don’t like what they say or do? I don’t think so.”

While they are promising to defend Trump, Senate GOP leaders have little interest in allowing a trial to turn into a circus, potentially dividing their caucus ahead of a tough 2020 cycle. And even if Senate Republicans wanted to embrace the hard-line posture of the House, their narrow majority makes that all but impossible under Senate rules: any procedural maneuvers will require near lockstep party unity from 51 of the 53 Senate Republicans. Your Huddle host and Burgess with the dispatch: https://politi.co/38g2x1B.

Related: “House Republicans Say The Senators Running For President Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Be Jurors In Trump’s Impeachment Trial,” by Kadia Goba of BuzzFeed News: http://bit.ly/2YlR9fK; and “Doug Collins calls for hearing of Republican witnesses in impeachment inquiry,” via Jeff Murdock of the Washington Times: http://bit.ly/2LtTGj3.

T.G.I.F.! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this December 6, where your host is relieved to see that former Speaker Paul Ryan has landed a new gig after Congress.

THURSDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The News Tribune’s story on Rep. Denny Heck’s (D-Wash.) retirement was the big winner.

GHOSTS IN THE GRAVES YARD — Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia became the latest House Republican to call it quits, announcing his retirement after just a decade in the lower chamber. His retirement — the 21st for Republicans this cycle — deals another blow to the GOP, as he was one of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s close allies. Graves said he is entering “a new season in life” and will join his family members “in their new and unique journeys” as his wife nears retirement and his three children enter adulthood.

Graves is a top member on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, but lost a bid to become the ranking member last year. He also was considered to be a potential candidate for filling the Senate seat being vacated by Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). But the Georgia governor tapped wealthy businesswoman Kelly Loeffler this week. Jennifer Scholtes with more: https://politi.co/2RBk7XZ.

Related: “Democrats woo Bullock for Senate. They’re over Beto,” from Burgess and James Arkin: https://politi.co/36aFFi1; and “Trump Keeps Butting Into Senate Races, Causing Headaches For GOP,” via HuffPo’s Igor Bobic and Kevin Robillard: http://bit.ly/2PlD5yO.

GUM CHEWING UPDATE — The House will vote next week on Pelosi’s legislation to lower prescription drug prices, a key priority for Democrats who are eager to show voters they can “walk and chew gum” at the same time during impeachment. But the bill has virtually no chance of being taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate, prompting complaints from GOP lawmakers who said they wish Democrats would have reached across the aisle on an issue where there is a lot of common ground.

On top of that … there could be some backlash from liberals over the measure. Before next week’s floor vote, House Democratic leaders plan to water-down language that progressives added to discourage sharp cost increases. “I’ve tried to be positive throughout this and to talk about improving the bill rather than opposing the bill,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). “But it would be really difficult to vote for it if no improvements are made.” The deets from Sarah Karlin-Smith and Adam Cancryn: https://politi.co/38bXbEq.

Related: “Things Aren’t Looking Great For The Violence Against Women Act,” via HuffPo’s Jennifer Bendery: http://bit.ly/33VoXld.

AMERICA WAITS ON DUNCAN — The House Ethics Committee has told Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) to stop voting on the House floor after he pleaded guilty earlier this week to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds. While the instructions are not mandatory, the panel is threatening to take action if he continues to use his voting card.

Hunter — who is expected to face a year in prison — has still not announced his resignation, and voted in the House on Wednesday. Yesterday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told a couple reporters he finally sat down and spoke with Hunter, and expects him to make an announcement about his plans “soon.” Roll Call’s Katherine Tully McManus has more: http://bit.ly/38btUcN.

HERE WE GO AGAIN — The White House has asked yet another Republican senator to block a House-passed resolution that would have formally recognized Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people. This time, it was Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) who intervened on the White House’s behalf, per Axios, saying now was not the “right time” given that Trump had just returned from NATO. What makes the move even more surprising is that Cramer had sponsored a similar resolution in the last Congress. More from Zachary Basu and Jonathan Swan: http://bit.ly/2Lt1JfT.

WEEKLY WINNERS AND LOSERS — It was another wild — and long — week in Washington, with lawmakers ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work after the Thanksgiving recess. But there is finally a light at the end of the impeachment tunnel … until we have to do it all over again in the Senate. So, who came out on top and who came out on bottom this week? Here are our picks:

W: Financial services executive Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to fill a Georgia Senate seat that will become vacant at the end of this year. She beat out other contenders like Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who had the backing of Trump world. And she made a big power play shortly after being tapped: she announced she will spend $20 million of her own money on her special election race.

L: Rep. Duncan Hunter, a once promising young lawmaker and member of a political dynasty in southern California. Hunter pleaded guilty on Tuesday, voted in the House on Wednesday and was told to stop voting on Thursday. What will today bring? A resignation?

Lauren Hancock is now an attorney on the government services and finance team at Barnes & Thornburg. She previously was counsel to the COS for Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.).

Annie Humphrey is leaving Sen. John Boozman’s (R-Ark.) office to work in Rep. Frank Lucas’ (R-Okla.) office as their new LA.

The House gavels in at 9 a.m., with first and last votes expected between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Today’s agenda: http://bit.ly/389gIoW.

The Senate is out.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds a news conference to discuss the Bicameral Congressional Delegation to the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Madrid at 9 a.m. in HVC Studio A.

Pelosi and House Democrats hold a news conference ahead of a vote on the Voting Rights Advancement Act at 10:30 a.m. in the Rayburn Room.

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) holds a news conference to discuss the introduction of the “Fairness for All Act” at noon on the House Triangle.

THURSDAY’S WINNER: Cynthia Posey correctly guessed that former first lady Julia Dent Grant was born with an eye condition medically called strabismus.

TODAY’S QUESTION: From yours truly: Andrew Johnson was impeached in the House but acquitted in the Senate — but just narrowly. What was the vote tally? And how many votes were needed to remove him from office? First person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess my way: mzanona@politico.com

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