Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, arrive to speak to reporters following a closed-door strategy session that included Vice President Mike Pence, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an exclusive that caused quite a stir. The story is headlined McConnell Says GOP Doesn’t Have Votes to Block Impeachment Witnesses.
At a meeting of all Republican senators late Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said the vote total wasn’t where it needed to be on blocking witnesses or documents, the people familiar with the matter said. He had a card with “yes,” “no,” and “maybes” marked on it, apparently a whip count, but he didn’t show it to senators.
But the reports of Mr. Bolton’s account unsettled other Republican senators. Several who are on the fence about witnesses said Mr. Bolton’s claims strengthened the case for further testimony, while the number of senators the White House believes may vote for more testimony ticked up.
There is no doubt that the revelation that the Ukraine incident is featured in a manuscript by John Bolton that is currently undergoing interagency clearance has thrown a skunk into the room. What had looked like a very high probability that a vote to acquit would come fairly quick now seems a bit more remote but not out of reach. As Politico reports, panic is receding and the GOP is beginning to coalesce towards acquittal:
Confirming WSJ reporting McConnell told senators they don't have the 51 votes to block witnesses … but the implication is simply GOP leaders have more work to do, not they are on a trajectory to lose or have witnesses. In fact, Rs feel good about beating witness question…
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) January 28, 2020
Senate Republicans have regained their footing and are once again pushing for a quick end to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, newly confident they can squash the question of whether to hear new evidence.
The Republican Conference emerged cautiously optimistic from a critical meeting on whether to defeat the call for witnesses on Tuesday afternoon, the first real chance for GOP leaders to conduct a survey of where the 53-member conference stands. The meeting marked the caucus’ first gathering since Trump’s defense finished its opening arguments on the Senate floor.
“The consensus is: That we’ve heard enough. And it’s time to go to a final judgment vote,” said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 GOP leader. “We’ve all heard enough, and the articles don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses.”
There are several possibilities for how the Senate will deal with the Bolton issue.
They could ignore it. It seems that most of the GOP caucus would prefer to do that, but a fringe group that perpetually tries to ingratiate itself to the left may prevent McConnell from rounding up the 51 votes needed to do this.
The most likely solution is the one proffered by Jim Lankford, which is to bring the Bolton manuscript to the Senate’s SCIF and let interested Senators read the passage in question rather than relying upon rumors of what is included.
Weak people always offer weak solutions, and the entry in that category goes to Pat Toomey:
Mr. Toomey suggested at a closed-door Senate lunch on Monday an arrangement in which the Senate subpoena Mr. Bolton as well as a witness sought by the White House, an approach Mr. Romney said he found fair.
“I think if you hear from one side, you probably ought to have a chance to hear from witnesses from the other side,” said Mr. Romney.
The overall landscape is gradually shifting in favor of marginalizing the Bolton stuff. None of the senators think Trump is going to be removed. Two of them would rather be in Iowa. And it is becoming increasingly obvious that once witnesses start being called, things aren’t going to look very good for the Democrats.
Politico and NBC say McConnell has the votes.
WSJ says he does not. https://t.co/dAXmUXB6mz
— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) January 28, 2020
Bolton claims may be a bust. Senate Republicans hint after a closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon that the GOP consensus is mostly against witnesses. The whip (vote counter), Sen. John Thune, tells us the Senate trial "shouldn't" go beyond Friday. "We are kind of on schedule"
— Susan Ferrechio (@susanferrechio) January 28, 2020