How A Senate Impeachment Trial Could Impact The Democratic Nomination Fight
A Senate Impeachment trial in early January would have a serious impact on the race for the Democratic nomination.
Based on the current pace of hearings in the House of Representatives and the legislative calendar from now till the end of the year, it seems likely that the earliest that the House will be voting on Articles of Impeachment will be right before the Christmas holidays. This means that the earliest possible start date for a trial in the Senate will be January, something that could prove quite disruptive for Senators running for President:
If you think President Donald Trump’s impeachment is messy now, just wait until next year.
The Senate is increasingly likely to hold Trump’s trial in January, according to senators and aides, a reflection of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s uncertain timeline in the House and the dismal prospects for finishing an impeachment trial in December.
And pushing the trial into 2020 will bring uncertain fallout for both parties, heightening the intrigue of what will already be historic proceedings on the second floor of the Capitol.
A half-dozen Democratic senators running for president will be anchored in Washington at the climax of early state campaigning, further marrying Democratic primary politics to the effort to oust Trump. These senators will need to find ways to break through both nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire, but rather than house parties and cattle calls, impeachment will now be the forum — not an easy task.
Republicans are rejoicing at the prospect of the trial disrupting Democrats’ presidential primary. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) literally danced a jig while singing: “Pete Buttigieg, is moving ahead!”
“It would be horrible,” Ernst deadpanned on Monday. Elizabeth “Warren and Bernie Sanders will be here right before the Iowa caucuses. [Iowans] expect to reach out and shake their hands. And they will be here sitting at their desks. I feel so badly for them.”
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has endorsed Warren, retorted: “I don’t even think kryptonite can hurt Elizabeth Warren.”
[V]eteran legislators are beginning to suss out the timing of Senate trial, taking cues from President Bill Clinton’s impeachment 21 years ago. Back then, the House passed articles of impeachment on Dec. 19; the Senate agreed to postpone the trial until January. Such a replay is likely, senators say.
“It looks to me like the House is going to be on this until Christmas, then it comes over to the Senate. It displaces all other business,” McConnell told reporters in Louisville, Ky., according to audio from the event. “I don’t know how long senators will want to continue the trial, but I’m pretty confident that in the end impeachment will not lead to ouster.”
McConnell said he “can’t imagine a scenario under which President Trump would be removed from office,” though the Kentucky Republican emphasized he isuncertain about the length of the trial. The longer a trial goes, the more it could affect the Democratic presidential primary as votes are held in more early states like New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Whether Sens. Warren, Sanders, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey will all still be running in two months is uncertain. But at the moment, all of them are projected to be quietly sitting at their Washington desks when it’s crunch time in Iowa.
“It’s what they signed up for. They have certain advantages of being incumbent senators. There’s certain disadvantages,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said. “It’s a factor. But I think the fact that they’re a United States senator should help their campaign also.”
Still, the schedule and the near-certain intersection of the campaign and impeachment will force candidates to think outside the box.
Senate rules say the chamber must be in session six days a week during a trial unless the leaders write a resolution changing the schedule. Senators also aren’t allowed to speak in the chamber during the proceedings.
Given how the timing is going, it certainly is looking as if Senators will be faced with the prospect of a trial beginning in January and continuing until, well, until it’s concluded. In the past, it has been suggested that Republicans might seek to speed up the procedures of the trial to get things over and done with quickly. Given the prospect, though, that the entire process will interfere with the campaigns of the Senators running for President, most especially Senators Warren and Sanders, it may well be that instead the GOP will seek to stretch the process out as long as possible in order to play a little mischief with the Democratic candidates for President.
Obviously, a Senate trial won’t impact all the candidates for the nomination, Indeed it would leave the campaign trail open for former Vice-President Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and all the other non-Senators to make potential inroads on the ground in early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Moreover, the fact that current Senate rules on impeachment trials, which Majority Leader McConnell has said he is unlikely to seek to change, require the Senate to be in session for the trial for six days a week, that makes the ability of Senators to campaign even on the weekends will be significantly impacted. Whether that is going to have a serious impact on the course of the campaign in its closing weeks will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on.