McConnell: Senate would have 'no choice' but to take up impeachment

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump McConnell says he'll be in 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment trial strategy MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday said that the Senate would have "no choice" but to take up impeachment if the House passes articles against President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE.

"Well under the Senate rules we're required to take it up if the House does go down that path and we'll follow the Senate rules," McConnell said during an interview with CNBC. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Pressed on if he was saying the Senate would take action on impeachment, he added: "I would have no choice but to take it up, based on a Senate rule on impeachment."

McConnell's comments come after House Democrats announced last week that they were formally moving forward with an impeachment inquiry.  

The GOP leader was asked last week, before House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Photographer leaves Judiciary hearing after being accused of taking photos of member notes Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina MORE's (D-Calif.) announcement, about what he would do if the House sent over impeachment articles. But McConnell declined at the time to weigh in, saying he wasn't going to comment on hypotheticals. 

"I'm not going to address all of these various hypotheticals that have been aired out about what may or may not happen in the House, and I think all of that's quite premature," he told reporters.  

A GOP Senate leadership aide clarified in a memo to reporters over the weekend that if the House passes articles of impeachment against Trump, the Senate must take some action. 

"There is no way we could somehow bar the doors and prevent the managers from presenting the articles (to the Senate). The rules of impeachment are clear on this point," the aide said. 

What an eventual trial would look like is up for debate, and negotiation.

McConnell, in his CNBC interview, noted that he's being guided by a "Senate rule related to impeachment that would take 67 votes to change. So I would have no choice but to take it up. How long you're on it is a whole different matter." 

Republican senators have vowed they would quickly squash any impeachment attempts in the Senate, where 67 votes, or a two-thirds majority, to convict the president.

The GOP aide noted that trying to dismiss the articles of impeachment would be allowed under the Senate's impeachment rules.

In 1986 then-Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove outlined guidelines for the Senate's actions to Howard Greene Jr., who was then Secretary of the Senate, according to a memo shared by the GOP Senate leadership aide.

"Under the Senate Rules the House of Representatives must immediately be informed that the Senate is ready to receive the managers 'whensoever the Senate shall receive notice' of an impeachment. Furthermore, under those same rules, the impeachment trial must commence at 1:00 o'clock on each day, Sundays excepted, and shall continue in session from day to day until final judgment shall be rendered," according to the memo.