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Schumer, Pelosi to meet as Democrats debate tactics

Schumer, Pelosi to meet as Democrats debate tactics
© Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs MORE (N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) plan to meet Thursday to discuss strategy for a Senate impeachment trial amid a debate over whether Democrats should hold back the articles of impeachment.

Some Democrats say Pelosi should consider holding the articles to put pressure on McConnell to agree to trial rules that would allow for additional witnesses and documents to be presented to the Senate.

Pelosi after the House impeachment vote declined to say whether she would send the articles to the Senate.

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"We'll make that decision as a group, as we always have, as we go along," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Democrats in the Senate are also set to discuss how to approach negotiations with Senate Republicans at ther regular Thursday lunch meeting. 

There is support for holding back the articles from some senators, though it is becoming a divisive issue.

“I think we ought to have an agreement upon the rules before we start the trial,” said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus MORE (D-Va.), who said senators need to hear from “witnesses who have direct firsthand knowledge” and review “the documents that bear directly on the question.”

Kaine said Pelosi should push for an agreement on the rules before appointing managers for impeachment.

“I can see why she might say, ‘You don’t have to agree on everything, but at least agree on what the rules are before I appoint the managers,’” he said.

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Not every Democrat thinks it would be wise to hold the articles back.

Some, including Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday MORE (Ill.), warn that holding the articles of impeachment in the House could be seen as playing political games and backfire, according to senators familiar with the internal discussion.  

“I would encourage everyone to follow the letter of the law, the precedent that’s been established and the wording of the Constitution,” Durbin told reporters Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers who favor holding the articles in the House until McConnell compromises on a rules package, however, say there is no constitutional requirement to send them to the Senate by a certain time.

McConnell, who has so far ignored Schumer’s invitation to meet to lay out the rules for the impeachment trial, has told colleagues that he doesn’t want to call witnesses and wants to keep the trial short.

Schumer sent a letter to McConnell Sunday requesting the testimony of four witnesses: Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE; former National Security Adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE; Robert Blair, senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff; and Michael Duffy, associate director for national security at the Office of Management and Budget.

On Tuesday, McConnell told reporters that any agreement on the trial’s procedures should only cover how much time is allocated for the House impeachment managers and President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE’s defense team to lay out their arguments, and for senators to ask questions. He said the question of witnesses should be decided only after both sides have presented their cases.

The impasse between Schumer and McConnell has spawned a debate among Democratic lawmakers as what the next steps should be. 

Democratic senators say it’s ultimately up to Pelosi whether to delay the articles of impeachment. They say the move would put more attention on McConnell’s refusal to agree to a rules package that allows for witnesses and additional documentary evidence from the outset.

Some Democrats worry about the House impeachment managers walking into the trial blindly.  

A Democratic senator who requested anonymity said “as a trial lawyer you don’t go to trial unless you’re ready and you don’t go to trial unless you think you’re going to win.”

The lawmaker said the articles of impeachment could be held over Trump’s head until his Senate Republican allies agree to the trial rules.

“I’d be fine with them not sending the articles of impeachment over and continuing to investigate,” the lawmaker added. “It would hold a hammer over the president.”

A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity said even a brief delay of the articles of impeachment will put more public attention on McConnell’s opposition to calling witnesses.

That in turn would put more attention on the votes of moderate Republicans such as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski: Trump should concede White House race Graham: Trump should attend Biden inauguration 'if' Biden wins OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent MORE (R-Alaska), and vulnerable Republicans such as Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerMark Kelly to be sworn in as senator on Wednesday Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (R-Colo.) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona certifies Biden's victory over Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Biden unveils batch of his White House team Mark Kelly to be sworn in as senator on Wednesday MORE (R-Ariz.), on procedural questions.

If McConnell continues to balk at calling witnesses, Democrats will force procedural votes and shift pressure to members of his caucus.  

“Let’s say he doesn’t agree to it, we can have a vote and that puts additional pressure on his caucus,” the lawmaker said.