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No. 2 GOP leader eyes Wednesday of next week for possible votes on witnesses

No. 2 GOP leader eyes Wednesday of next week for possible votes on witnesses
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump doubles down on Section 230 repeal after GOP pushback Congress faces late-year logjam Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill MORE (R-S.D.) says he expects the Senate to debate and vote on whether to subpoena additional witnesses and documents on Wednesday of next week if the impeachment trial plays out as anticipated.

Thune spoke to reporters Wednesday night after the first full day of opening arguments, offering a projection for how the rest of phase one of the trial is likely to unfold.

“If you kind of play things out sequentially, you’re looking at — looks like — maybe the middle of next week where we’d be getting to the point of having that vote,” he said, referring to when senators will vote on the crucial question of extending the trial and reviewing additional evidence not covered by the House inquiry. 

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But Thune cautioned that the timing depends on the White House and how many questions senators want to ask of the prosecutors and defense. 

“It depends entirely I think on how much time the president’s counsel takes and then how much time we take asking questions,” he said. 

Senators expect House managers to use three days to make their arguments, taking up Thursday and Friday to finish presenting their case. They have about 15 and a half hours of time left after spending about eight and a half hours laying out the facts of their investigation Wednesday.

Then the president’s defense team has 24 hours over three days to present its own arguments, and senators will have 16 hours to submit questions in writing to the parties. 

Thune said he expects the House managers will use almost all of their time. But Trump’s lawyers aren’t expected to make full use of their 24 hours over three days, and senators aren’t expected to use all of their question time. That makes next Wednesday a potentially pivotal day in the Senate trial. 

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“When the White House takes up the mantle, we’ll see how much time they use,” he said, adding that questions from senators are more of a wild card. “I think a lot of it will depend on just how much time members want to use to direct questions.” 

A trio of Senate moderates — 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 (R-Maine), 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) and 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) — have indicated they are willing to consider subpoenaing additional witnesses and evidence once phase one of the trial is completed. 

All three voted repeatedly against 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's (D-N.Y.) motions to subpoena various witnesses on Tuesday, but that could change a week from now.

The organizing resolution adopted by the Senate this week states the Senate shall debate and vote on the question of whether it should be in order to debate any motion to subpoena witnesses and documents.

If 51 senators vote to debate and vote on motions for subpoenas, then the trial could be extended for a few more weeks. If the procedural vote fails, then 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.) will move swiftly to bring the two articles of impeachment to the floor for a vote and Trump’s expected acquittal. 

“We’ll probably make some assessment when this is concluded whether or not they think that there’s more information, evidence, testimony that will be necessary, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Thune said of the moderates. 

“I just think the question about where 51 votes are isn’t quite ripe yet. You obviously want to hear both sides of the argument, and our members are going to want to hear what the administration has to say,” he added. “We’ll have some time at the conclusion of ... questions to really sit down and have those family discussions about where people are.”