What to watch for as Senate organizes impeachment on day one

At long last, the impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE will really begin this week in the Senate.

Senators are expecting a lengthy battle over rules and procedure on Tuesday for the first real day of the trial, which could wrap up as soon as next week, depending on how senators vote on the question of subpoenaing additional evidence.

Tensions were already starting to boil Monday in anticipation of the debate after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (R-Ky.) made public an organizing resolution that will force House impeachment managers to cram up to 24 hours of opening arguments into a two-day window.


As a result, House prosecutors might have to speak until past midnight on Wednesday and Thursday if they choose to use their full time.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Trump supporters could hand Senate control to Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) panned McConnell’s resolution Monday evening as “nothing short of a national disgrace.”

Democrats will make multiple attempts to split the GOP conference by offering amendments at the start of the trial to require subpoenas of new witnesses and documents.

The Senate is set to convene at 12:30 p.m. and begin working as a court of impeachment at 1 p.m., giving senators a half-hour to speak about the trial.   

McConnell will introduce his resolution that will give the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team each 24 hours to make their opening arguments and require each side to limit those presentations to two days — a requirement that was not made in former President Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.

In another departure from the Clinton resolution, House managers will not be able to enter evidence compiled from the House impeachment inquiry until after the Senate votes on subpoenaing additional documents and witnesses.


A Senate Republican leadership aide noted that the House manager and Clinton’s defense team in 1999 were each able to make their opening round of arguments in less than 12 hours.

McConnell’s resolution also provides 16 hours for senators to ask questions of the two sides by submitting queries to the presiding officer, Chief Justice John Roberts.

A second senior Senate GOP aide said it’s possible that senators will go into a closed session in a final attempt to negotiate a joint resolution in order to avoid a floor fight.

But given the lack of direct negotiation between McConnell and Schumer in recent weeks, and the unity within the Republican conference on procedure, that is by no means certain.

Democrats will attempt to amend the resolution by forcing votes to subpoena additional witnesses and documents.

“As soon as Senator McConnell offers this resolution, I will be offering amendments to address the many flaws in this deeply unfair proposal and to subpoena the witnesses and documents we have requested,” Schumer said Monday evening.

Democrats could try to turn the heat up on vulnerable Republicans such as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (Maine), 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 (Colo.) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in Mark Kelly sworn in to Senate seat Sen.-elect Mark Kelly visits John McCain's grave ahead of swearing-in MORE (Ariz.) by holding multiple votes on specific witnesses, such as former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonDefense policy bill would create new cyber czar position Pressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday MORE.

Republicans, however, are expected to stick together.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him WaPo reporter says GOP has less incentive to go big on COVID-19 relief COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (R-Utah), one of Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics, reiterated Monday that he will not vote for subpoenas until after opening arguments, giving political cover to other GOP senators.

“If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts,” he said in a statement.

Under McConnell’s resolution, the House prosecutors will not start making their opening arguments until 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“I think what you’re going to have Tuesday when we take up the resolution that’s when Schumer is going to entertain us with a series of motions to do everything,” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return MORE (R-Alaska), a key swing vote.


She’s predicting a “lengthy procedural day.”

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Congress faces late-year logjam The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Barr splits with Trump on election; pardon controversy MORE (R-Mo.) predicts Schumer’s various motions to subpoena witnesses will be tabled by majority Republican votes.

McConnell’s organizing resolution will allow debate and votes on subpoenaing additional witnesses after the opening arguments are heard and senators have a chance to ask questions.

It will not guarantee a debate and vote on a motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment without an up-or-down vote on conviction or acquittal, a provision that was included in the 1999 resolution.

It does, however, recognize the right of Trump’s defense team to make a motion to dismiss the case as soon as the organizing resolution is adopted because such a motion is allowed under the Senate’s regular impeachment rules.

GOP senators such as Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBiden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country The Memo: Harris moves signal broad role as VP Former US attorney asks for probe of allegations Graham pressured Georgia official MORE (S.C.) have already said there are not enough votes to dismiss the case before opening arguments are presented.


Senators will be under strict decorum rules and will have to sit in their seats while the procedural battle plays out. They have been informed that standing on the floor is not permitted and that these rules will be strictly enforced. 

Senators have also been advised to keep electronic devices off the Senate floor and to refrain from speaking to their neighbors.

Some senators are already starting to chafe at the restrictions.

“I’ve had to be silent all day under penalty of imprisonment,” quipped one GOP senator after the trial’s ceremonial opening Thursday.