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

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Democratic senators offer bill to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers 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 BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE and acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE. President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation 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 McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year 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 HawleyO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Rush Limbaugh lauds Hawley: 'This guy is the real deal' MORE (R-Mo.) said on Wednesday. “I would guess that he would not break a tie.”