Waiting for Pelosi: The Senate theater of the absurd

Political Theater, Episode 106

A Capitol. A hallway. Lunch. The Senate copes with not having full control of its calendar and waiting on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to transmit articles of impeachment so it can start its trial. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators are getting a little antsy waiting for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump so they can start a trial. We spent the first full day Congress was back in the Capitol after its recess talking to senators, and we got an earful of their frustrations, suggestions and theories about what happens next.

Why the angst? The beginning of January can be a fairly slow time for Congress, especially during an election year. But not so for 2020.

The House impeachment of Trump and a Senate trial, along with escalating tensions with Iran, have created an atmosphere of high drama. To take the theater metaphor (this is Political Theater, after all) a little further, the House impeachment was an opera, where none of the actors left any doubt as to their roles, and the melodrama and histrionics flowed. And the Senate?

At this point, it is the theater of the absurd, where no one really seems to know what’s going on, even as the players cling to bits of narrative.

Maybe we’ll call it “Waiting for Pelosi,” with apologies to Samuel Beckett.

So on the first full day members of Congress returned from their break, we at Political Theater went to the Hill for one of the Capitol’s most sacrosanct rituals: senators’ Tuesday policy lunches.

As producer Evan Campbell and I tagged along with CQ Roll Call’s senior Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski, we found that senators’ lives had been unexpectedly disrupted, and they were not exactly happy about it.

As chaotic as the Senate can seem sometime, it is a highly regimented and rule-abiding place, and senators dig that. But with Pelosi delaying when she sends the articles of impeachment, senators don’t have control of their schedules, and they really don’t like that.

As we spoke with several of them, you could pick up several signs that they’re ready to get the show on the road. 

It’s a day in a confusing life.

So even by the more recent standards of the Trump era, the new year is off to a chaotic start. Just ask any senator. They’re ready for some answers, a schedule, some structure. Ready to wrap up this revue of the theater of the absurd. Ready to move on to what some may say is the Kabuki theater of an impeachment trial.

Show Notes:

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