Endgame: Murkowski will vote against calling witnesses

Endgame: Murkowski will vote against calling witnesses

Totally predictable after Lamar Alexander’s vote last night. What would Murkowski have gained by forcing a 50/50 deadlock that would have left John Roberts and McConnell scratching their heads about how to resolve it? By voting this way, she earns a favor from Trump and Cocaine Mitch and gives Trump fans back in Alaska a reason to forgive her the next time she votes no in a Kavanaugh-magnitude situation.

She’s from a redder state than Susan Collins and, unlike Collins, she doesn’t face voters again for another two years. They’re simpatico most of the time but their political incentives were totally different here.

I agree completely with John Ziegler that the “suspense” surrounding Alexander’s and Murkowski’s votes was nonsense, calculated to give the two of them a way to signal to voters that they were rilly, rilly thinking this through when their votes were quietly assured for awhile. As far back as Tuesday night the GOP caucus was making confident-sounding noises about having the votes by Friday. Ziegler:

It was always clear that McConnell was setting Alexander up for the role of the guy who, after careful and considerable contemplation, decided that it was somehow how in the best interest of the country for Trump’s impeachment trial to be the first in history to not have witnesses [and probably the only American trial of any kind to actively prevent a highly credible direct witness to what is being alleged from being allowed to participate in any way]. I doubt that even McConnell thought the media would buy this charade — intended to give Alexander’s pre-ordained cave-in far more credibility and gravitas — so blindly.

The popular theory that Alexander’s impending retirement gave him more freedom to buck the GOP establishment was almost laughable. Because Trump now owns the entire “conservative” power structure and may do so for many years to come, and because he is so famously vindictive, voting against his friend McConnell’s wishes would have made his post-Senate years far less cushy than they would be otherwise.

Correct. Murkowski was part of the same charade. She and McConnell wanted to leverage her reputation as an independent-minded centrist to generate extra attention for her eventual vote against witnesses. Hacks like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham were always in the bank and willing to vote how Trump wanted, but if Lisa Murkowski is willing to vote the same way, well, then the GOP really must have the better of this argument on the merits. Collins would have been used the same way if she didn’t have to worry about reelection this fall. To all appearances, the only Republican who’s voting the way he truly wants to vote, against his obvious electoral incentives, is Romney.

Exit question: If Murkowski thought there was “no fair trial in the Senate” because of the partisan process in the House, why didn’t she use her power to restore some fairness to it? Republicans have the votes to call — and block — any witnesses they want. They could have allowed Trump to call 10 witnesses with none for the Democrats. Where’s Hunter?

Update: The only remaining Republican around whom there was a shred of doubt on witnesses was Rob Portman. He’s now officially a no too.

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