Democratic senator to force vote requiring Roberts to weigh in on witnesses

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Mid-Atlantic states sue EPA over Chesapeake Bay pollution MORE (D-Md.) is planning to force a vote on Friday to require Chief Justice John Roberts to subpoena impeachment witnesses who he believes are relevant and also rule on any claims of executive privilege. 
 
The move comes as GOP senators are increasingly confident they will have the votes to block witnesses from being called. 
 
If Democrats are able to muster four GOP votes to allow witnesses, both sides could then make motions for specific individuals and documents. Under the rules resolution, the Senate would vote on the motions. 
 
But Van Hollen's effort would let Roberts issue subpoenas if he thinks a motion is relevant. The Senate, if it disagreed with his decision, could still overrule him with a simple majority. 
 
"A fair trial includes relevant documents and witnesses. And in a fair trial the judge determines what evidence is admitted," Van Hollen said in a statement. "My motion ensures the Chief Justice will serve the same role as a judge in any trial across our country – to allow the Senate access to the facts they need to get to the truth."
 
The motion, according to text from Van Hollen's office, would require Roberts to issue subpoenas for witnesses or documents requested by either side if he "deems them likely to have probative evidence relevant to either article of impeachment."
  
Van Hollen would also require Roberts to referee any claims of executive privilege. 
 
Democrats want to subpoena four witnesses, including former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJudge appears skeptical of Bolton's defense of publishing book without White House approval Maximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOn The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security Blockchain trade group names Mick Mulvaney to board Mick Mulvaney to start hedge fund MORE. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE is likely to invoke executive privilege on both to prevent them from testifying if they were subpoenaed by the Senate.  
 
“No Republican can question the fairness of this approach – the Chief Justice oversees the highest court in our land and was nominated by a Republican President. And, given his authority to rule on questions of privilege, they should not fear a drawn-out process," Van Hollen said. 
 
"I urge my colleagues to seek out the truth and the facts and to vote in support of my motion. Anything else constitutes an effort to hide the truth," he added. 
 
The plan to force a vote on Friday comes after Democrats tried to get similar language included in the rules resolution passed last week. Their effort was rejected along party lines. 
 
Roberts has, so far, largely taken a backseat in the impeachment proceeding. 
 
With several GOP senators still undecided on calling witnesses, a 50-50 tie still remains open as one possibility; however, GOP senators say they do not expect Roberts would step in and break the tie. 
 
If he were to break a tie and side with Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' 'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate fallout l Trump clarifies remarks on Proud Boys l Down to the wire in South Carolina MORE (R-Ky.) could only afford to lose two GOP votes in order to still have the 51 votes to block witnesses. If there was a tie and Roberts did not cast a vote, McConnell could lose three GOP senators because a tied vote would be the same as the witness vote failing. 

“I certainly think it’s a very fraught topic,” Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Trump, GOP aim to complete reshaping of federal judiciary In losing China tariffs at the WTO, the US dodged a bullet MORE (R-Mo.) said on Wednesday. “I would guess that he would not break a tie.”