Wednesday morning news: December 18, 2019

House set for historic impeachment vote today » For only the third time ever, the House of Representatives is set to vote today on whether to impeach a sitting president. 

Members of the House Rules Committee met Tuesday to set the guidelines for hours of floor debate ahead of the historic vote. The two sides once again clashed on the merits of the case against President Trump and on the impeachment process itself. Georgia GOP Congressman Rob Woodall…

WOODALL: The process gets described over and over again as if the White House had plenty of opportunity, and everybody had an equal chance to question—nonsense, nonsense! And to let that record stand perpetuates a myth that this was supposed to have been a fair process. 

But Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida said those Republican complaints are a smokescreen. 

HASTINGS: All they want to talk about is process. This ain’t about process. This is about the president abusing his power. 

Democrats appear to have the numbers to impeach the president today. Only one Democratic member, New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, has said he’ll vote “no” on both articles. 

Van Drew reportedly plans to switch parties soon, becoming a Republican, at least partly because of blowback from within the Democratic party over his opposition to impeaching the president. 

No Republican has announced support for the articles of impeachment. 

House passes $1.4 trillion spending bill » Despite the deep divide on impeachment, House lawmakers cooperated Tuesday on a bipartisan budget bill to fund the government through next September.

AUDIO: The yeas are 280, and the nays are 138. The motion is adopted. 

The $1.4 trillion package once again increases government spending by $49 billion.

The bill provides nearly $740 billion for the military and about $630 billion for the departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and others.

It permanently repeals three taxes that generated about $40 billion a year to pay for Obamacare. 

It also raises the tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21, a change that applies to e-cigarettes and vaping devices as well. The bill now heads to the Senate. 

Pope Francis lifts shroud of secrecy over abuse cases » Pope Francis is lifting a shroud of secrecy in the Roman Catholic Church that many say protected pedophiles and silenced victims. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Francis on Tuesday scrapped the use of so-called “pontifical secrecy.” That is the Vatican’s highest level of secrecy in clergy sexual abuse cases. Critics say the church has used it to cover up abuses. 

Pope Francis said going forward the church will handle clergy abuse with a lower level of confidentiality. In-house legal proceedings still will not be public. But the new rule says official secrecy will no longer get in the way of civil law proceedings. Francis also increased the age separating child and adult pornography from 14 to 18.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator, said the reform will strengthen cooperation with civil law enforcement.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.

New Jersey bill to end religious exemptions for vaccines stalls amid protests » New Jersey’s Assembly on Monday passed a measure to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren. But the bill stalled in the state Senate as opponents shouted down lawmakers.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill 45-25, with six abstentions. But the Democrat-controlled state Senate postponed its decision because there weren’t enough yes votes.

For hours on Monday, loud chants from opponents disrupted the state Senate session, with protesters shouting “We do not consent,” and “In God we trust.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney said he will post the bill for a vote again before the legislative session expires next month. He said “we’re not done with it. They can cheer all they want,” adding, “It’s the right policy decision.”

Former Pakistan leader sentenced to death » A Pakistani court on Tuesday sentenced the country’s former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf to death. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The sentence stems from a treason case related to the state of emergency Musharraf imposed in 2007 while in power.

It’s the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former military chief and ruler of the country has received the death penalty. The court sentenced him in absentia

Musharraf was allowed to leave the country in 2016 to seek medical treatment. He’s been living in Dubai and is said to be very ill. If he were to return to Pakistan, he would have the right to challenge his conviction and sentence in court. But that’s unlikely. And Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates have no extradition treaty. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Pope Francis gestures upon arriving in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican at the beginning of his weekly general audience, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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