As of Friday afternoon, 50 of the Senate’s 53 Republicans had signed on to co-sponsor it. The three holdouts were exactly whom you’d expect: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney. But their delay in joining the effort didn’t necessarily mean they’d ultimately refuse. Recall that the three retiring GOP members of the caucus, Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi, and Johnny Isakson, also took longer than the rest to declare their support for the resolution. But in the end, all three did.
Not Collins and Murkowski, though. They’re now on record: Count them out. Presumably the same goes for Mitt. Granted, the fact that they’re all declining to sponsor the resolution doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t vote for it if it comes to the floor, but if you’re going to absorb the political pain from your own base that comes with criticizing Graham’s bill, why then turn around and absorb pain from the other party’s voters by supporting it?
Presumably all three would vote no, which means Graham’s resolution wouldn’t carry a clear majority of the Republican-controlled chamber. The question now: Will the Senate actually vote on Graham’s resolution at all?
“I have been critical of the House not holding a vote to authorize the inquiry, but the House determines its own procedures,” Collins said, who has not decided whether or not she would vote for the resolution if it came to the floor. “Just as I don’t like it when House members try to tell us to abolish the filibuster, I’m not sure it’s productive for the Senate to try to dictate to the House how to conduct the inquiry.”
Murkowski took the same line in her own statement, insisting that she dislikes how Pelosi has handled things but that the Senate should mind its own business:
NEW Sen @lisamurkowski stmt RE: not signing onto Senate GOP resolution condemning House impeachment process: “As awful as their process is, the formal impeachment inquiry lies in the House, and it’s not the Senate’s role to dictate to the House how to determine their own rules.” pic.twitter.com/9gEQ1DXkR9
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) October 29, 2019
Romney, meanwhile, raised an interesting point in wondering whether the resolution was still necessary. “[I]t looks like Speaker Pelosi has scheduled a vote so that may be overtaken by events,” he told Politico, which is correct — partly. One of the complaints in the text of Graham’s resolution is that prior attempts to impeach a U.S. president began with a formal floor vote in the House authorizing impeachment proceedings. Pelosi announced yesterday afternoon that that vote will now happen belatedly. Does Graham still want to go forward with his resolution?
I’m guessing yeah. After all, he introduced the resolution in the first place to try to appease Trump and his inner circle amid complaints that he’s not using his power as Judiciary Committee chairman to investigate the Burisma matter. The resolution was his way of throwing them a bone, doing a little PR for the White House by attacking the Democrats’ investigation. He’ll be eager to follow through on that in order to keep Trump off his back on the Bidens. Plus, it’s not as if the upcoming House vote answers all of the grievances laid out in his resolution. The text also complains that Democrats haven’t afforded Trump due process by letting his lawyers confront witnesses and haven’t played fair with the House GOP by letting them subpoena people. Those criticisms are still viable, at least for now.
The issue isn’t whether Graham wants to proceed with the resolution, it’s whether McConnell does. He’s also a co-sponsor, of course, but Politico finds it telling that McConnell hasn’t yet scheduled a floor vote on the bill. Instead he dumped it on the Senate Rules Committee, where it’s apt to be bogged down for weeks, and then could be bogged down for weeks after that if/when Democrats start using procedural gimmicks to obstruct it. By the time it’s ready for a vote the House may have already voted to impeach. America will be in trial mode. No one will care about Graham’s resolution anymore.
Which, I take it, would be fine with McConnell. As always, he’s worried first and foremost about the incumbents in his caucus and only secondarily about Trump. If he can spare the five most vulnerable Republicans in the chamber — Collins, Gardner, Ernst, Tillis, and McSally — from a tough and ultimately unnecessary vote, he’ll look for ways to do it. The latter four have already taken a minor political risk by informally endorsing the resolution in order to signal to Republican voters back home that they’re on the team. If McConnell can now make the resolution go away without a formal vote, so much the better. I bet that’s what’ll happen.
Exit question: Does having Romney around as a lightning rod for Trump’s criticism make it easier for Collins and Murky to defy the president? Anytime they join with Mitt on something that makes the White House unhappy, you know which of them will be the target of the pissy tweets that inevitably follow.