Monday on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered some harsh words for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her strategy of delay in sending articles of impeachment to the upper chamber for a trial as the Constitution demands.
McConnell called Pelosi’s delay a “one-woman blockade” and said her move was a “strange gambit” that “produced absolutely nothing.”
It has been nearly a month since impeachment articles against President Donald Trump were passed by the House on Dec. 18, and Pelosi has yet to send them on to the Senate, claiming she needed to know how the Senate trial will be run before appointing managers and allowing the next phase of the process to begin.
House managers are appointed by the speaker to present the articles to the Senate, but that body sets its own rules for impeachment proceedings and is not required or expected to involve the House in those decisions.
Trial expected next week
The main demand of Pelosi and House Democrats was that the Senate agree to call witnesses, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton. But last week, McConnell announced that he already had enough votes to start the trial without making any agreements on new testimony.
McConnell effectively won, and there was really nothing left to do but send the articles to the Senate to avoid having them dismissed outright as was suggested in a resolution introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) last week. “The House Democrats’ turn is over. The Senate has made its decision,” McConnell declared last week. “There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure.”
Since McConnell refused to fold, Pelosi finally announced on Friday that she would send the articles “next week.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) revealed on Monday that opening arguments in the imepachment trial would probably begin on Jan. 21.
Although Pelosi is now saying that Republicans will “pay a price” if they don’t call witnesses, that seems to just be wishful thinking on her part, as Trump’s approval numbers continue to go up after the successful strike on Gen. Qassem Soleimani followed by a de-escalation of tensions with Iran.
Republicans anticipate acquittal
An acquittal in the Senate on both impeachment counts is all but assured, since 20 Republicans would need to defect in order to secure a conviction.
Even Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — all of whom have expressed misgivings about McConnell’s planned approach to the trial — know that the Democrats’ case against the president is weak and that his acquittal is a virtual lock.
After all, Trump has 94% support among Republicans according to recent polling, and few incumbents are willing to risk either the ire of the electorate or of a president likely to campaign against any challengers for their seats who may emerge.
Supporting Trump’s removal from office is something that could have dire consequences for both Republicans as well as Democrats in 2020 and beyond, and that fact is sure to be front and center on the minds of each senator as they decide how to cast their vote.