Sun. Feb 28th, 2021

With the House set to vote on impeachment today around 3 pm ET, the big question becomes WWMD — what will McConnell do? Yesterday afternoon, the New York Times reported that the soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader had begun sending passive signals that he would not oppose removal of Donald Trump if and when the issue came to the Senate. Later in the evening, Axios’ Mike Allen quantified Mitch McConnell’s leaning as “better than 50-50” to vote for removal:

There’s a better than 50-50 chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would vote to convict President Trump in an impeachment trial, sources tell Axios.

What they’re saying: “The Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump, said a top Republican close to McConnell.

Why it matters: This would represent one of the most shocking and damning votes in the history of American politics, by the most powerful Republican in Congress.

Remember when Mitt Romney cast the first Senate vote in US history to remove a president from his own party? Having the party’s caucus leader cast such a vote would eclipse that by a magnitude of historical order.

But would McConnell take that kind of vote alone, as Romney did? Not a chance. Mitch McConnell isn’t about to risk the rest of his career on a stunt vote; that was the point of his pre-riot speech to fellow Republicans to just count the Electoral College votes and leave the rest alone. If there is a 50/50 chance McConnell will vote to remove Trump, it’s because he calculates a 50/50 chance to get enough Republicans to come along with him on removal. At the moment, McConnell would need at least 17 members of his caucus, including himself, to make this anything other than a stunt vote. If McConnell’s leaning “better than 50-50,” it might mean he already has most of those lined up.

Another indication that McConnell might have a plan in place comes from Steny Hoyer, of all people. Up until now, Democrats have talked about holding onto the article of impeachment once passed, perhaps for months, as a way to push off any Senate action. Today, however, Hoyer declared full speed ahead:

That may not be as much of a signal that McConnell will agree to an emergency session as it is an acknowledgment that holding the article basically moots it. Either this is an emergency or it isn’t, and if it’s not, then there’s no reason to impeach a president with seven days left on his term in the first place. There’s still an open question about whether the Senate can act on this at all after Trump leaves office too.

However, Hoyer’s move could mean that McConnell has signaled that the Senate will come back into session to receive the impeachment. If McConnell agrees to Chuck Schumer’s emergency session, then we’ll know that he has the votes to remove. Watch for an announcement tonight after the House vote to see just what McConnell might have in mind. If he doesn’t have 17, or preferably 20, GOP votes for removal solidly in hand, there won’t be an emergency session and this will die on the vine on Inauguration Day.

Keep this in mind, too. The momentum might not be as strong as it appeared:

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