WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to break a deadlock over President Donald Trump’s impeachment, a top Republican said Sunday he will push a change in rules that would allow a Senate trial to move forward immediately if Democrats do not agree to its format this week.
It seemed uncertain how receptive Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell might be to an extraordinary rules change to bypass Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is stalling House-passed articles of impeachment against Trump in a bid to get new witnesses to testify.
McConnell has been clear he is aiming for Trump's swift acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Pelosi’s delay a “political stunt” and that she should move the articles along to the Senate so a trial can begin.
“If we don’t get the articles this week, then we need to take matters in our own hands and change the rules. Deem them to be delivered to the Senate,” he said.
Changing the Senate’s rules would require 51 votes in a chamber where Republicans hold a 53-47 edge. But such an extreme move would almost certainly ratchet up tensions in the already divided Congress. While senators have agreed on a 51-vote threshold to confirm judicial and administrative nominees, they have been wary of doing so on other legislative matters.
McConnell, at least for now, has said he is content to simply wait out Pelosi, D-Calif., while the Senate moves on to other business.
Graham suggested that GOP patience is wearing thin over Pelosi’s delay. “My goal is to start this trial in the next coming days, not let Nancy Pelosi take over the Senate,” he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said it was up to Pelosi to decide when to release the articles, but “I don’t think it’s going to be indefinite.”
“The desire is to get a commitment from the Senate that they're going to have a fair trial,” he said.
A top McConnell ally, former aide Josh Holmes, said Democrats have little to gain by dragging out the process. Most expect the Senate will ultimately vote to acquit the president and Trump will not be removed from office.
“This ends only one way and that’s when she sends the papers over without any kind of preconditions,” Holmes said.
Graham spoke on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” Schiff was on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Holmes appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”