Final impeachment vote postponed to Wednesday amid internal GOP spat
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has postponed a final vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump until Wednesday in the face of opposition from Senate GOP moderates to his plan to wrap up the trial Friday or Saturday without deliberations.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), emerging from a Senate GOP conference meeting, said senators now will return to the impeachment trial at 11 a.m. Monday to deliberate with a final vote on convicting or acquitting Trump set for Wednesday.
“There was some feverish discussion,” Braun said.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, confirmed that the trial will wrap by Wednesday.
McConnell couldn’t afford to lose any votes because Democrats were unified in opposition to ending the trial by Saturday because Republicans have not allowed testimony from new witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton.
Democrats stayed together even though Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who are running for president, are eager to return to Iowa for the Feb. 3 caucus.
Under the deal struck by Senate Republicans they will pass the resolution detailing how the chamber navigates its way to the final votes on acquittal on Friday night. The initial rules resolution provided few details on how the trial proceeded after the witness issue was resolved.
The Senate will hear closing arguments from the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team on Monday with both sides getting two hours each, according to the resolution.
The Senate would then adjourn the impeachment trial until 4 p.m. on Wednesday when they would move to final votes on the articles of impeachment.
As part of the agreement the Senate will not have closed-door deliberations, according to Blunt. Instead, senators will be able to give public speeches on the Senate floor on Monday through Wednesday to explain their positions, something members in both sides had privately requested.
The technicality will give Chief Justice John Roberts a break from presiding over the Senate, and, unlike the impeachment trial, senators will not have to stay in their seats for hours.
“That way senators don’t have to sit around on the floor and listen to the deliberations,” a senior Senate GOP aide said.
A Republican senator confirmed: “Just the floor is open for people to talk.”
McConnell called Trump before introducing new organizing resolution, read through the details and Trump signed off, according to a source familiar with the call.
McConnell is expected to introduce an organizing resolution on the Senate floor after dinner Friday and Senate Democrats will offer several amendments to it.
“We’re going to move back to the floor … We’ll have the resolution and a handful of amendments,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said he expected Democrats will offer a “number” of changes to the proposed resolution outlining how the trial will finish but that Republicans will table each of the amendments. Republicans are able to effectively pigeonhole Democratic amendments with a simple majority.
The chamber is expected to adjourn for the day at 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m., Braun estimated.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they will force votes on four amendments, and vote in lockstep against the resolution.
“Sen. McConnell and Republicans wanted to rush through an acquittal vote tonight. But Democrats wanted votes on witnesses and documents, for the House Managers to be able to make closing arguments, ample time for every member to speak, and to prevent [the] GOP from rushing this through,” the spokesman said.
The trial ground to a halt Friday afternoon after an internal Republican spat erupted over how to end the proceeding. The pushback from moderate Republicans derailed McConnell’s plan to acquit Trump late Friday or early Saturday after a marathon round of votes on Democratic procedural objections.
A senior Senate Republican aide said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wanted there to be deliberations as there were in Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.
A spokeswoman for Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democrats said the delay was caused by internal GOP divisions.
“McConnell is trying to get his coalition together,” said a senior Senate GOP aide.
A Democratic senator, who requested anonymity to comment on discussions on the floor, said, “the problem is not on our side.”
Moderate Republicans who pressed McConnell to guarantee a vote on subpoenaing witnesses and documents after phase one of the trial rose up to scotch his plans to acquit Trump without deliberations, according a GOP senator familiar with internal discussions.
A group of moderates, including Sens. Collins, Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), met with McConnell on Friday afternoon to hash out strategy to end the trial.
A GOP aide said Romney did not have concerns about the timeline but acknowledged “other members have expressed concerns however.”
A Republican senator said the opposition of only a few fellow GOP senators was enough to derail the initial plan to acquit Trump on Friday or early Saturday.
“For us to do to what we want to do, we all got to want to do it,” the lawmaker said.
Not all of the moderates were pressing for deliberations as Alexander, who issued a statement Thursday saying Trump’s “inappropriate” action did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, indicated he was prepared to vote immediately.
And Blunt tried to smooth over questions of GOP tension, saying he was not “aware” of any GOP senator demanding the Wednesday date for the final votes, and instead passing blame to the Democrats.
Democrats “could have stretched it until then if they wanted to and so we decided to go ahead and make an agreement,” Blunt said.
But the tensions played out on the Senate floor. McConnell and Schumer huddled together and with their top floor managers.
McConnell was also spotted chatting with a rotating cast of Republican senators, including Sens. Alexander, John Thune (S.D.), John Cornyn (Texas), and Ted Cruz (Texas).
In response to the concerns of moderates who want to follow at least somewhat the model of the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial, which set up 25 hours of closed-door deliberations, Senate GOP leaders floated the idea of having time for deliberations starting Monday.
Under one proposal floated Friday, senators would have gotten 10 minutes each to speak on the articles of impeachment against Trump.
That idea initially failed to gain consensus support in the Senate GOP conference as many Republican senators were expecting the original plan of wrapping up the trial late Friday or early Saturday.
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