Schumer, Pelosi to meet as Democrats debate tactics

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

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerDemocratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Schumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian MORE (N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNews media's sausage-making obsession helps no one Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season 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 KaineDemocrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Senate advances defense bill after delay Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Senators to take up defense bill Wednesday 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.

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

Some, including Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case 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 MulvaneyJan. 6 committee issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 11, including Pierson, other rally organizers MORE; former National Security Adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWhen will Biden declare America's 'One China, One Taiwan' policy? India's S-400 missile system problem Overnight Defense & National Security — GOP unhappy with Afghan vetting 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 TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' 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.

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“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 CollinsGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCongress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks MORE (R-Alaska), and vulnerable Republicans such as Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerGun control group alleges campaign finance violations in lawsuit against NRA Colorado Supreme Court signs off on new congressional map Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district MORE (R-Colo.) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyBusiness groups, sensing victory, keep up pressure over tax hikes Kelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema 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.