So … basically game, set, and match to Midnight Mitch? Mitt Romney’s statement from last night certainly appears to indicate that McConnell will win approval for his rules regardless of Senate Democrats’ outrage today. All McConnell needs is 51 votes to pass his rules as is, and Romney was perhaps the most reachable for Chuck Schumer.
In his statement, Romney cites the Bill Clinton precedent and the fact that McConnell’s rules “align closely” with them. Close enough for government work, perhaps?
The allegations outlined in the articles of impeachment passed by the House are extremely serious – did the President abuse his office for personal political gain, and did he obstruct Congress’ investigation by blocking subpoenas? These allegations demand that the Senate put political biases aside, and make good faith efforts to listen to arguments from both sides and thoroughly review facts and evidence. I have made clear to my colleagues and the public that the Senate should have the opportunity to decide on witnesses following the opening arguments, as occurred in the Clinton trial. The organizing resolution released tonight includes this step, and overall, it aligns closely with the rules package approved 100-0 during the Clinton trial. If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts.
McConnell can only afford to lose two Republicans to pass his rules package. If Romney votes in favor of them, then Schumer has to get Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and a Republican to be named later to vote against them. Who would be the third Senate Republican? Mike Lee and Rand Paul may have their differences with Trump, but not on this impeachment. Cory Gardner is facing a tough re-election campaign in Colorado, but he’s not going to torch his right flank by handing control of the trial to Schumer and Adam Schiff.
Even if Schumer peels off Collins and Murkowski, then, the effort is doomed. That’s not stopping Democrats from targeting Collins over this vote and a later one on witnesses:
Democrats intent on unseating Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins want to make the Senate impeachment trial as much an indictment of her as it is of President Trump.
With the trial beginning in earnest Tuesday, an activist group plans to broadcast videos of Collins on a billboard truck outside the Capitol contrasting her comments during the 1999 Clinton impeachment and today, particularly regarding whether to call witnesses. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee created a website called, “What’s Changed Susan?” to highlight her comments in favor of needing more evidence then versus now. …
Collins has long promoted herself as a rare moderate voice in Congress. Her support for abortion rights and pro-LGBT issues has made her an ally for Democrats on the GOP side of the aisle during many social issue debates.
But when Collins voted in 2018 to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, liberal activists mobilized against her.
That, however, is the problem for Democrats. They burned whatever leverage they had with Collins when she voted for Kavanaugh. There’s no way they’re not going after her tooth and nail in her re-election fight this year no matter which way she votes on McConnell’s rules package and the later vote on witnesses. At this point, she needs a big turnout from Trumpian populists to counter the Planned Parenthood onslaught that’s coming, so she’s unlikely to peel off against Trump. The abortion brigades won’t let up even if she votes to remove Trump at this point, which means the political pressure is nowhere near what it might otherwise have been.
That’s not to say that Democrats won’t keep pushing it. Adam Schiff accused McConnell of sandbagging House Democrats with the rules this morning, lamenting that the House won’t get a fair trial for its impeachment. Did the House provide a fair process to get there in the first place? Er ….
NEW: Rep. Adam Schiff on Sen. Mitch McConnell's proposed rules for impeachment trial: "We can see why this resolution was kept from us and the American people." https://t.co/C7AyPvvSTr pic.twitter.com/UyBjxFJWgK
— ABC News (@ABC) January 21, 2020
Update: It doesn’t sound as if Democrats’ pressure campaign is having its desired impact. If anything, this sounds like a centrist deciding one side is significantly nuttier than the other:
Mitt Romney told me that Dems are making a “mistake” in their reaction to McConnell resolution
“If everything is an outrage, then nothing is an outrage.” He says McConnell changes from Clinton trial rules are “modest” and he won’t be voting today on motions to call for witnesses
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 21, 2020
This looks like the same kind of miscalculation Schumer made when he tried negotiating the rules in the media rather than directly with McConnell.