Report: GOP has enough votes to delay decision on impeachment witnesses until later in trial

On Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans continue to butt heads over President Donald Trump’s impeachment and impending Senate trial, including over whether — and when — additional witnesses should be called to testify. But according to a new report from The Hill, it appears that the GOP has gained the upper hand.

On Monday, moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) both signaled that they would back Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s choice to delay a decision over whether additional testimony should be heard in Trump’s impeachment trial, meaning the GOP has enough votes to “quash” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s request to hear from new witnesses — at least for now, The Hill reports.

“The first step”

While Dems have said they want to hear from witnesses like former National Security Adviser John Bolton sooner than later, Republicans argue that the decision should be made “only after House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team present their opening arguments,” The Hill reported.

This strategy — deferring the decision until later in the proceedings — follows a precedent set by the trial of former President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. “The process moved to a period during which the Senate debated and voted that three witnesses should be deposed. I believe that this process — the Clinton approach — worked well,” Collins told reporters, according to The Hill.

For her part, Murkowski also favors the Clinton trial model. “I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this unfortunate process and that was to go through a first phase and then they reassessed after that,” she said.

According to the Alaska senator, questions over whether witnesses like Bolton should testify should come later.

“The first step is trying to get articles of impeachment, which we haven’t gotten yet,” she lamented, according to Axios. “There’s a lot of people that want to hear a lot of things, but you got to get to the first step first.”

Collins seemed to express a similar sentiment. “I think it’s difficult to decide in isolation before we have heard the opening statements,” the senator said, according to Axios. “There are a number of witnesses that may well be appropriate for Stage 3, of which he would certainly be one.”

“We can’t hold a trial without the articles”

Of course, all of this presupposes that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will actually send the impeachment articles to the Senate, which she has yet to do. According to journalist Chad Pergram, Democratic sources have said Pelosi will continue to sit on them until an agreement regarding Bolton’s testimony has been reached.

Until that changes, McConnell says he won’t be spending time on the issue.

“We can’t hold a trial without the articles. The Senate’s own rules don’t provide for that. So, for now, we are content to continue the ordinary business of the Senate while House Democrats continue to flounder,” McConnell said on the Senate floor last Friday.

He went on: “But if they ever muster the courage to stand behind their slapdash work product and transmit their articles to the Senate, it will be time for the United States Senate to fulfill our founding purpose.”

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