Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday the Senate would have “no choice” but to take up impeachment if the Democrat-led House passes articles of impeachment against President Trump.
But the trial may not last long and certainly the Senate could dismiss the impeachment resolution.
“Well under the Senate rules we’re required to take it up if the House does go down that path and we’ll follow the Senate rules,” McConnell said during an interview with CNBC.
The GOP leader was pressed on whether he was saying the Senate would take action on impeachment of the president.
“I would have no choice but to take it up, based on a Senate rule on impeachment,” he replied.
McConnell told CNBC it would take 67 votes to change the rules in impeachment.
“So I would have no choice but to take it up,” he said. “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter.”
He was critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for her party’s obsession with trying to remove a sitting president.
“If I were the speaker, I wouldn’t want to go into next year’s election having it credibly said that all you did for the whole Congress was harass the president and try to remove him from office,” he said.
It would require 67 senators, or a two-thirds majority, to convict Trump and with 53 seats, the GOP can tolerate a few likely defections from the usual suspects and still prevent Democrats from removing the president from office.
In a memo to reporters over the weekend, a Republican Senate leadership aide said if the House votes to impeach, the Senate must take some action, The Hill reported.
“There is no way we could somehow bar the doors and prevent the managers from presenting the articles (to the Senate),” the aide said. “The rules of impeachment are clear on this point.”
However, the aide added that trying to dismiss the articles of impeachment would be allowed under the Senate’s rules.
More from The Hill:
In 1986 then-Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove outlined guidelines for the Senate’s actions to Howard Greene Jr., who was then Secretary of the Senate, according to a memo shared by the GOP Senate leadership aide.
“Under the Senate Rules the House of Representatives must immediately be informed that the Senate is ready to receive the managers “whensoever the Senate shall receive notice” of an impeachment. Furthermore, under those same rules, the impeachment trial must commence at 1:00 o’clock on each day, Sundays excepted, and shall continue in session from day to day until final judgment shall be rendered,” according to the memo.
But there’s a difference between Senate rules and the U.S. Constitution.
Politico reported over the weekend that “the trial of the century” — which would be Trump defending himself before a jury of 100 senators — “could never happen.”
More from Politico:
That’s because of a Constitution that designates the Senate with the “sole power to try” an impeachment that comes from the House. But nowhere in America’s founding document is the trial said to be a mandatory act.
Sure, it would be an unprecedented move in U.S. history for Republican leader Mitch McConnell to table Trump impeachment proceedings without allowing any significant debate or a vote to convict a president from his own party, thereby removing him from office. But it’d be well within his power.
But then, there are those who think McConnell may mimic his actions in 2016, when former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, only to have the Senate leader cite the upcoming election in shelving the nomination.
The 2020 election is just 13 months away, and Republican operative Michael Steele told Politico that could make a difference.
“You’re going to start hearing that argument and much more loudly, because we’re not too far away from the moment when voters start voting,” said the longtime aide to former House Speaker John Boehner. “You’ve got to make the case why it matters and why it rises to the level of removing an elected president of the United States from the White House.”
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