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

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents Lawmakers struggle with Capitol security after latest attack Democrats torn on Biden's bipartisan pledge 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 BoltonHillicon Valley: Facebook Oversight board to rule on Trump ban in 'coming weeks' | Russia blocks Biden Cabinet officials in retaliation for sanctions Russia blocks key Biden Cabinet officials from entering in retaliation for sanctions The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE. President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics 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 acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Pew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Pelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' 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 HawleyRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring MORE (R-Mo.) said on Wednesday. “I would guess that he would not break a tie.”