Although they had their chance during the House’s phase of the proceedings, Democrats have spent the last several weeks demanding to hear from new witnesses in the Senate’s impeachment trial before a verdict is rendered. But though they only needed four Republicans to side with them to make that a reality, it looks like the Dems have come up short.
A Wednesday report from The Hill revealed that Senate Republicans now think they have enough votes to block additional witness testimony and end President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial as soon as Friday.
“If I had to guess, no witnesses”
The development comes after a Wednesday morning meeting between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), who was pegged by some as likely to join Dems in their call for witnesses.
According to The Hill, “[t]here was no discussion of witnesses at a Senate GOP lunch meeting Wednesday, which was held a couple hours after McConnell and Murkowski met for about 20 to 30 minutes.” This led some Senate Republicans to believe that they have the votes to “defeat a motion to consider subpoenas for additional witnesses and documents,” The Hill reported, meaning the trial could come to a swift end — perhaps as soon as this week.
“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds told reporters, according to The Hill.
Indeed, while it’s unclear exactly what McConnell and Murkowski discussed — and Murkowski herself didn’t attend the Wednesday luncheon — Indiana Sen. Mike Braun (R) said Wednesday that “the mood is good” among Senate Republicans.
“If I had to guess, no witnesses,” he told reporters after the GOP’s lunch meeting. “We’ll be in a place where I think everyone is going to have their mind made up and I believe that we’ll be able to move to a verdict, and the witness question will be clear at that point.”
Dems don’t have the votes
Of course, there are still a few stragglers that will likely defect and side with the Dems on witnesses. Names floated by The Hill included Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who did attend Wednesday’s lunch but declined to speak with reporters afterward, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
Murkowski, for her part, has not said for sure how she will vote, even as Senate Republicans remain optimistic. But even if the Alaska senator does decide she wants to hear from more witnesses, Democrats would need her, Romney, Collins, and at least one other Republican to cross the aisle to compel additional testimony — a feat that remains highly unlikely.
Moreover, it should be noted that a vote for more testimony could delay the conclusion of the impeachment trial for weeks or even months, according to Politico; meanwhile, the Senate would be hamstrung for all intents and purposes, unable to move forward on other matters with the president’s trial taking precedence.
For Republicans, that means no more confirmations of federal judges or other Trump administration nominees, something the GOP has prioritized during Trump’s tenure. For Democrats, that means anyone running for president or for re-election this fall would be blocked from campaigning and fundraising during the crucial primary season.
With all of that in mind, it should be clear by now that neither side actually really wants to call for additional witnesses; the Democrats are simply bluffing in hopes of using the issue as a cudgel against Republicans presumed to be weak and shaky. Mitch McConnell appears to have called the Dems’ bluff, however, and it is looking increasingly likely that President Trump will be acquitted sooner than later.