Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican senators Tuesday that they “have the votes” to pass a resolution to start the impeachment trial without requiring witness testimony.
“We have the votes, once the impeachment trial has begun, to pass a resolution essential the same, very similar to the 100 to nothing vote in the Clinton trial, which sets up, as you may recall, what could best be described maybe as a Phase One,” McConnell said, according to The Hill.
The resolution passed for former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999 gave time for the House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team to give opening arguments and senators to write down questions for each, but neither additional witness testimony nor document review was required.
“We’re going to have a similar resolution. It may not be word-for-word exactly the same,” McConnell said. “We’ll be glad to show it to you when we unveil it.”
McConnell gained the votes to pass the resolution after two Republican moderate voters, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, confirmed Monday night that they would back it.
“The process moved to a period during which the Senate debated and voted that three witnesses should be deposed,” Collins told reporters Monday night, The Hill reported.
“I believe that this process — the Clinton approach — worked well.”
Murkowski added, “I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this unfortunate process and that was to go through a first phase and then they reassessed after that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham confirmed McConnell’s comments and called for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to give the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“He has 51 [votes] for sure to set the impeachment trial using the Clinton model,” the South Carolina Republican said. “I think most Republicans believe this is a political stunt.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged Tuesday to force a vote on calling impeachment witnesses at the start of the trial, but McConnell will need — and has — 51 votes to shoot any vote down, The Hill reported.
On Tuesday, Pelosi said McConnell needed to “immediately” publish the rules for the Senate impeachment trial before she would send the impeachment articles to the Senate, according to CNN.
“It is important that he immediately publish this resolution, so that, as I have said before, we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit the articles to the Senate,” the California Democrat wrote in a letter to her colleagues Tuesday evening.
The Senate is still waiting for the House to send over the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, and Pelosi has declined to give an estimated time when she will transmit them.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell said, “How inappropriate and embarrassing to rush forward on a partisan basis and then treat what you’ve done like a political toy.”
“How contemptuous of the American people to tell them for weeks that you feel this extraordinary step is so urgent and then delay it indefinitely for political purposes. How embarrassing — and how revealing,” he said.
“Speaker Pelosi’s actions over the past three weeks have confirmed what many Americans suspected about this impeachment process all along — that House Democrats have only ever wanted to abuse this grave constitutional process for partisan ends from the beginning.”