GOP Senators Balk at House Democrats’ Plan to Hold Impeachment Articles

December 22, 2019 Updated: December 22, 2019
FONT BFONT SText size

Several Republican senators have questioned the strategy employed by House Democrats to stall sending articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Over the past few days, top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have suggested holding the articles until the Senate comes up with rules on the pending impeachment trial.

But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said he believes Pelosi doesn’t have the power to hold up the trial on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

“The Speaker has a lot of power,” Blunt told CNN on Dec. 22, before adding that he doesn’t think she has the authority to hold the articles once “the House has spoken,” meaning voted, on articles of impeachment. “I think it’s a mistake on the speaker’s part. I think this will look pretty political.”

Blunt also said he doesn’t believe Trump should be removed in the Senate trial and said the House failed to make its case against the president.

Last week, the House voted on impeachment mostly along party lines—with two Democrats breaking ranks and joining Republicans. The remaining Democrats and one independent voted to impeach Trump for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the House’s move to hold up the articles was “bizarre” and called the articles “pretty thin.”

“This thing is kind of bizarre. They had to rush to this impeachment vote, and then all of a sudden she’s sitting on it,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” on Dec. 22. “I don’t think the Senate should be making the case the House should’ve made in their presentation.”

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks with reporters ahead of today's vote on the health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington
Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) speaks with reporters ahead of a vote on the health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 25, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Over the weekend, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), suggested that an indefinite hold might be placed on the articles.

When he was asked during an appearance on Fox News’ “Cavuto Live” on Dec. 21 about why Pelosi hasn’t sent over the articles, Clyburn responded that his caucus doesn’t know the process in the Senate.

“Because we don’t know whether we should send two managers or 22 managers,” he said. “If we knew what the process was, we would know what to do. We do not have a process.”

“It looks very good to me and to my constituents. What Nancy Pelosi’s doing is demonstrating once again that we are a country of laws, not of men or women. And in this instance, one man.”

The move to withhold the articles triggered widespread confusion on what leverage Democrats have in the impeachment process.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “I admit, I’m not sure what leverage there is in refraining from sending us something we do not want.”

McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are at odds about whether the trial in the Senate should include witnesses.

At least one constitutional scholar, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, said that Trump hasn’t actually been impeached yet because the articles of impeachment haven’t been passed over to the Senate.