Senate

GOP senators hope to avoid Christmas impeachment trial

Senate Republicans are hoping to avoid a Christmas impeachment trial as they try to plan the timeline for the proceedings. 

Some House Democrats have thrown out the possibility of having a vote on impeachment articles by Christmas, raising the prospect that a trial could start or run during holidays in the Senate. 

But GOP senators are hoping that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will be able to work out an agreement to avoid a Christmas session.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said on Tuesday that he expects the two leaders would be able to come to a deal to avoid lawmakers coming back to Washington for a Christmas trial if the House votes on impeachment articles before the holiday. 

"Yeah, I think so," Thune said when asked if he thought McConnell and Schumer would be able to collaborate to strike a deal on the date. 

The Senate is currently scheduled to be in session through Dec. 13, but will likely be in town during the third week of December because of a Dec. 20 government funding deadline. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hasn't committed publicly to a vote timeline and wouldn't rule out during an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" that the House's impeachment inquiry wouldn't spill over into 2020. 

House Democrats had initially had Thanksgiving as a soft deadline for an impeachment vote, but that slipped. Senate Republicans are now expecting the House to vote next month. 

"She may send it over to us over Christmas just to poke us in the eye, and if everybody wants to work through Christmas, I'll work through Christmas, but I think it's more likely that we'll take it up in January," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) about a Senate trial. 

Under the Senate's impeachment rules, a trial would have to start the day after the House sends over the articles of impeachment, unless that day is a Sunday.

 

McConnell has given few public indications about what he expects from a trial, except that he believes there will be one. McConnell and Schumer have said they will try to negotiate an agreement on the procedure, but those talks haven't yet begun. 

 

But there is precedent for a delay between the House's vote on the articles of impeachment and the start of a Senate trial. The House approved articles of impeachment against then-President Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998, but senators didn't formally start the trial until Jan. 7, 1999.

 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), when asked what happens if they get the articles before Christmas, said there would need to be an "agreement" on the schedule. 

 

"What happened in the Clinton case was ... there was agreement to start the trial in January," Cornyn said. 

 

Asked if he thought that could happen on a potential Trump trial, he added: "Well it looks like there's a familiar pattern emerging here." 

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