“The republic for which it stands is what we are here to talk about today,” she said as she addressed the chamber, while standing alongside a poster of the American flag.
The California Democrat ended her ten-minute remarks by quoting the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the beloved House Oversight Committee chairman who passed away earlier this fall, three weeks after House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry.
“Today we are here to defend democracy for the people,” Pelosi concluded, receiving a standing ovation from Democrats as Republicans sat silently on the other side of the aisle.
Three hours earlier, lawmakers had shuffled into the Capitol, many still in outerwear and toting coffees as they were summoned to the House chamber for the first votes of the morning, beginning a historic day that will end with Trump becoming only the third president ever impeached.
Outside of the Capitol, where it registered a sunny but cool 39 degrees, a quirky mix of characters roamed about the plaza — from a Santa hauling around a poster-sized “naughty list” with Trump at the top to protesters already assembled, vigorously arguing for and against impeachment.
Minutes before the House convened for the day, freshman Rep. Max Rose sat in the back of the chamber, alone. Rose, who had long resisted impeachment and even put out an op-ed arguing firmly against it days before the Ukraine scandal broke, looked around the largely empty chamber and let out a sigh.
The fireworks on the floor started early. Shortly after 9 a.m., House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — a top Trump ally — stood up to force a procedural vote, kicking off a series of procedural gambits from the GOP.
Noticeably absent for the first round of votes was Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the Democratic freshman from New Jersey who shook the Capitol over the weekend by deciding to switch parties in protest of the impeachment effort and his declining prospects in a future Democratic primary.
But Van Drew showed up for the mid-morning vote on the rules to govern the impeachment debate, rocking a flashy blue suit. He briefly huddled with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) — the only other Democrat who opposed launching the inquiry and is also expected to vote against the impeachment articles — and shook hands with his soon-to-be colleague Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) before taking a seat on the GOP side of the chamber.
Also making a return to the Capitol was Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who was sidelined from the final impeachment hearing in the House Rules Committee on Tuesday — remaining in New York for an extra day to be with his ill wife.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) was also spotted on the House floor, a week after missing approval of the impeachment articles in the Judiciary Committee because of heart surgery.
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), meanwhile, roamed the floor carrying a red cap that looked like Trump’s signature ‘Make America Great Again” hat.
And two women, draped in red cloaks and headdresses, sat sentry in the gallery above the chamber, holding their hands in prayer for most of the time. The women, later identified as climate activists, declined to answer questions but said through a spokeswoman they were “grieving the death of Democracy.”