Remember how news broke on Tuesday night that McConnell told his caucus that he didn’t yet have the votes to defeat a motion for witnesses? It turns out that was a strategic move to pressure certain Senators to vote against witnesses, and now two days later Republicans feel like it worked:
AXIOS – As the Senate prepares for another long day of Q&A, Republicans seem increasingly confident that at least 51 senators will vote Friday to prevent bringing additional witnesses into President Trump’s impeachment trial.
The whip count is still fluid, but GOP senators are far more optimistic after yesterday’s eight-hour session than they were following their closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
The Tuesday night meeting was strategically timed — and played exactly the role that Republican leaders had hoped it would.
Sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his conference that they did not yet have the votes to block witnesses, knowing that the news would likely leak to the media and alarm some senators who dread both a prolonged impeachment trial and Trump’s Twitter wrath.
McConnell and Majority Whip John Thune knew that while it was true that several GOP senators had yet to make clear what their position was, they were confident they could still reach the magic number of 51 no-votes by the end of the week.
The sources say the leaders thought addressing the conference in a secretive setting would dial up the pressure for them to commit to sink the vote, and according to my conversations with senators the next day, the strategy appeared to work.
Axios quotes a few Senators who were said to be undecided before…
Sen. Martha McSally: “I have heard enough. It is time to vote.”
Sen. Cory Gardner: “I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness.”
Sen. Pat Toomey: “I’m very, very skeptical that … criteria is going to be met” to call more witnesses.
We’ve been reporting on a lot of optimism in Republicans ranks. I sincerely hope it isn’t misplaced.
So what happens if for some reason Collins, Romney, and Murkowski join Democrats to vote for witnesses and we have a 50-50 tie? That’s when Chief Justice John Roberts has the duty of casting a vote and breaking the tie OR abstaining, at which point the motion dies. So if he were to vote against witnesses or abstain, the motion dies. If he votes with Democrats, there will be witnesses. But I’m really hoping Republicans have the 51 votes, which would include Murkowski, because I just don’t trust Roberts to do the right thing here.