Here’s how Mitch McConnell has kept his caucus in line on Trump’s impeachment trial
While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to hold onto the two articles of impeachment that President Donald Trump was indicted on by a full House vote on December 18 — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — House Speaker Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are bitterly arguing over the specifics of a Senate trial. McConnell and Schumer have very different ideas on how Trump’s impeachment trial should be handled. And journalists John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett, in a January 7 article for Politico, address McConnell’s ability to keep his Republican caucus in line on impeachment — even with Sen. Mitt Romney, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans who aren’t slavish Trump devotees 100% of the time.
“Chuck Schumer demanded Tuesday morning that Republicans allow witnesses to testify during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, but Mitch McConnell already knew he had the votes to roll over his adversary,” Bresnahan and Everett report. “It took just a few hours for McConnell and Senate GOP leaders to clinch a final whip count in support of moving forward with a trial framework that ignores Democratic requests.”
McConnell, as Senate majority leader, has not been one to take pride in his ability to accomplish things along bipartisan lines: he views Democrats as his enemy, not the loyal opposition. And that includes his ideas on conducting an impeachment trial.
“Under the tentative rules package, which is the same as those used in President Bill Clinton’s 1999 Senate trial, the House will be allowed to present its case against Trump — and then, the president’s defense team will respond,” Bresnahan and Everett explain. “At that point, McConnell or any GOP senator could move to end the trial and call for a final vote on the charges against Trump.”
McConnell’s obvious goal, according to the Politico reporters, is to “hurry up and acquit Trump.”
Bresnahan and Everett note, “McConnell’s raw exercise of power is also a setback for Schumer, who had pressured Republicans for weeks to allow witnesses and new evidence to be introduced but ultimately, had little leverage if McConnell could keep his caucus together. The minority leader warned that the decision would come back to haunt Republicans, especially those who go before voters in November with Trump on the top of the ballot.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told Politico she had hoped that McConnell and Schumer would be able to find a mutually agreeable approach for a Senate trial, but she lamented, “It doesn’t appear that’s going to happen.” Collins also criticized Schumer for trying to get her voted out of office in Maine this year.
“I don’t think Chuck Schumer is very interested in my opinion since he’s just launched a website in Maine and just committed an additional $700,000 in additional negative advertising from the Majority Forward PAC,” Collins told Politico. “I don’t think he’s really very interested in doing anything but trying to defeat me by telling lies to the people of Maine, and you can quote me on that.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, however, believes that McConnell, not Schumer, is the cause of so much animosity in the Senate and is critical of him for having no interest in working out a bipartisan agreement on the rules for an impeachment trial.
“That’s what he’s done his whole career: he’s been an opportunist,” Brown told Politico. “I’m not surprised he says anything. I’m not surprised he acts this way.”