A second impeachment trial for President Donald Trump will likely drag into President-elect Joe Biden‘s term as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not bring the upper chamber back earlier than Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Kentucky Republican confirmed his office informed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that McConnell would not reconvene the Senate before Tuesday, the day before Biden’s inauguration. Schumer had urged his GOP counterpart to use emergency powers to swiftly hold a trial and vote on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office.
The House will vote Wednesday to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol last week while Congress counted Biden’s electoral win. While Democrats said they had to impeach Trump to hold him accountable for the violent riot, they worried a Senate trial in the early days of Biden’s administration would hamstring confirmation of Cabinet members and passage of a coronavirus relief package.
Biden has suggested the Senate could “bifurcate,” spending part of its day on impeachment and another portion on confirming nominees.
Schumer will become the majority leader after the two Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in, which is expected to happen before the end of the month. The House took extraordinary steps to rush an impeachment article to the floor Wednesday, but it is unclear whether a McConnell-led Senate would take any additional steps to expedite the process.
The Senate trial after the House first impeached Trump took nearly three weeks, from mid-January until early February of last year.
The timeline makes it unlikely Congress will remove Trump from office before Biden’s inauguration a week from Wednesday. However, a Senate vote to convict Trump would prevent him from becoming president again in 2025.
The Washington Post first reported that McConnell would not bring the Senate back early.
If the Senate would vote on whether to convict Trump before control changes hands, all 48 Democrats and 18 Republicans would need to support the measure. If the Senate considered impeachment after Democrats take control, all 50 members of the party plus 17 Republicans would need to back conviction.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable acts. In a Wednesday message to colleagues responding to “speculation” in the press, McConnell said he had not decided whether to back impeachment.
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he wrote.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has said he would consider an impeachment measure sent from the House. GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania both urged Trump to resign.
“I want him out. He has caused enough damage,” Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News.
Other Senate Republicans have already said they will not vote to convict the president. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who distanced himself from the president after the attack, said Wednesday that he opposes impeachment.
The South Carolina Republican criticized the rushed process in the House and contended Trump has “committed to an orderly transfer of power, encouraging calm and rejecting violence.” On Tuesday, the president said impeachment posed a “tremendous danger” to the country.
Graham also took a dig at Republicans who support the impeachment.
“To my Republican colleagues who legitimize this process, you are doing great damage not only to the country, the future of the presidency, but also to the party,” he said.