A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

House may vote to impeach – but then McConnell runs the show

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks through the Capitol building on Oct. 29, 2019, in Washington.

Dear reader:

It’s looking increasingly likely that the House of Representatives will vote to impeach President Donald Trump – at which point, the action will shift to the Senate.

So far, most Republican senators have largely stuck to a “no comment” posture, pointing to their anticipated role as jurors in an impeachment trial. A few have expressed concern over details emerging about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Why We Wrote This

Senate Republicans could opt for an expedited trial, to put the matter behind them. Or they could draw it out and try to re-frame the narrative in the president’s favor.

But at this point, it seems highly unlikely that enough of them would vote against President Trump to achieve the required two-thirds vote to remove him from office. In fact, it’s as easy to envision certain Democratic senators voting against conviction (West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema come to mind) as it is Republicans voting for it.

Right now, most Republican senators seem to want to put the whole matter behind them. “Every indication is that articles [of impeachment] will be coming our way eventually," Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., recently told reporters. "I just wish it was sooner rather than later."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated that the rules do require the Senate to take up articles of impeachment in the wake of a House vote, but he’s also indicated his desire for an expedited process.

Yet Republicans may not want the trial to be too quick – since it represents their chance to reframe the narrative in the run-up to next year’s election. Indeed, a Senate trial could take place right as Democratic primary voters are casting ballots for their nominee.

Interestingly, in a Washington Post op-ed this week, Trump critics Lanny Davis and Anthony Scaramucci argue that there’s little point in holding a Senate trial with a preordained outcome, anyway.

“We believe the Senate should proceed to a trial only if at least 20 Republican senators announce beforehand that they are open-minded about removing Trump from office,” write the former Clinton and Trump aides. Otherwise, they say, a trial would be a “waste of time.”

The op-ed may be an attempt to push GOP senators to declare publicly their independence from the president. But it also raises the possibility that some Democrats are worried the Senate phase of impeachment – with a trial controlled by Republicans – could hold downsides for their party.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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