Holy cow, there may really be four members of the Everyone Else Stinks Caucus by tomorrow. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, told CNN’s Manu Raju that neither he nor Chuck Schumer could guarantee party-line unanimity on the vote for Donald Trump’s removal from office. Three Senate Democrats are “on the fence,” Durbin confirms, and claims that Schumer’s not whipping the vote:
Durbin told me doesn’t know if Ds will be united on conviction. “I don’t know the answer.” He said Schumer is in touch with the three Dem senators who are on the fence but said Schumer isn’t pressuring them. He said pressuring them is not possible on a vote “of this magnitude”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 4, 2020
Come on, man — surely Schumer’s pitching a conviction vote a little. House Democrats desperately need the Senate Democrat caucus to vote unanimously for conviction on both articles in order to counter the inevitable backlash for their failure. If Senate Dems unite behind them, then Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi can blame Republicans for their rabid fealty to Trump. If, however, one or more Senate Democrats vote to acquit, that undermines the narrative they have been crafting ever since Pelosi finally released the articles of impeachment.
Durbin doesn’t name the three Senate Democrats, but they are almost certainly Kyrsten Sinema, Doug Jones, and Joe Manchin, who very publicly suggested he might lean toward acquittal despite misgivings over Trump’s actions. Only Jones is up for re-election this year and he’s almost certain to lose in Alabama no matter which way he votes, but a vote to remove would allow Jones to take the rest of the campaign off, full stop. West Virginia is so Republican right now that Manchin looks like Nancy Pelosi in contrast, and the last thing he needs for his next election fight is to appear to be in her thrall.
That leaves Sinema, who won her seat in 2018 in Arizona, a nominal red state that is turning purple — or was, until impeachment. Trump was never terribly popular in John McCain’s state, barely edging out Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election without making it to 50%, but one has to wonder whether that will remain the case as Trump’s national polling keeps rising. Sinema won her election by putting both her partisanship and radical politics in her past, which makes her a very interesting target for both sides on this vote. Does she throw in with Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, or with Trump? In Arizona, that’s about as close to a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario:
Sinema was the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Arizona in 30 years and has positioned herself as a conservative Democrat in the caucus. Still, she often votes with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on procedural votes. Notably, she joined the party’s quest for new witnesses and opposed the rules of the impeachment trial written by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.).
But back home things are complicated. For months, the Arizona state party has been considering whether to reprimand her for leaning too far to the right. No matter how she votes, some will be angry.
Best guess: all three will vote against the obstruction article, and they may not be the only three Democrats to do so. It’s not just an unsupportable allegation, it’s dangerous in its precedent as well. On the abuse of power article, Democrats might end up trading Joe Manchin for Mitt Romney and settle it with a tie on bipartisanship. If they lose more than one on both articles, though, Democrats can kiss their “Republican partisanship” narrative goodbye.