That’s certainly one interpretation, although Lindsey Graham has another. “This is really comical,” Mitch McConnell declared on the Senate floor this morning about suggestions from House Democratic leadership that they might refuse to transmit the articles of impeachment over a rules dispute. Accusing them of “getting cold feet in front of the entire country,” McConnell slapped back at their attempts to get the Senate to “fix the House Democrats’ failures for them”:
McConnell started off by painting this impeachment as the culmination of a three-year political process to wreak revenge on Donald Trump for defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016.
For the very first time in modern history, we’ve seen a political faction in Congress promise from the moment the moment a president election ended they would find some way to overturn it. … In April 2017, three months into the presidency, a senior House Democrat said I’m gonna fight every day until he’s impeached. That was three months into the administration. In December 2017, two years ago, Congressman Jerry Nadler was openly campaign campaigning to be the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee specifically specifically because he was an expert on impeachment. …
It was like the Speaker called up Chairman Nadler and ordered one impeachment, rush delivery, please.
Now that they have the rush delivery, McConnell wonders, why has the rush suddenly ended? McConnell thinks that House Democrats are more concerned now not just with defeat, but perhaps cognizant of the precedent they just set:
Mr. President, looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial. They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process, but now they’re content to sit on their hands. This is really comical. Democrats’ own actions concede that their allegations are unproven. The articles aren’t just unproven, they’re also constitutionally incoherent.
Frankly, if either of these articles is blessed by the Senate, we could easily see the impeachment of every future president of either party. Let me say that again. If the Senate blesses this historically low bar we will invite the impeachment of every future president.
That’s not just a rhetorical point, either. Roll Call reports that at leasts one Republican congressman is flat-out guaranteeing such an effort if this succeeds:
Republican Rep. Rodney Davis after the vote on Wednesday guaranteed that his party would use the tactic.
Asked if the gravity of the House’s vote to impeach Trump had set in, Davis said it hadn’t, but will eventually.
“It will set in at a later date when we have the next partisan impeachment,” Davis said. “When a Democrat is in the White House and the Republicans control the House because of the precedent that’s been set here. I guarantee it’s going to happen.”
While McConnell set a more sardonic tone, Lindsey Graham chose another approach. The Senate Judiciary chair accused Pelosi of “Constitutional extortion” in a Twitter thread this morning, calling the threat “an act of political cowardice.” Perhaps the Speaker of the House doesn’t realize that one chamber can’t dictate rules to the other, Graham says in ridiculing the idea:
Not allowing the Senate to act on approved Articles of Impeachment becomes Constitutional extortion and creates chaos for the presidency.
It also sets in motion a tremendous threat to our Constitutional system of checks and balances.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 19, 2019
Nancy Pelosi’s threat to refuse to transmit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for disposition is an incredibly dumb and dangerous idea.
There is a reason one person can’t be Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader at the same time!
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 19, 2019
It’s not as though the Republican majority doesn’t have options. One has to wonder whether Graham will open a session of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss a rule change that will allow the Senate to draw the articles of impeachment from the congressional record, or whether they need to actually change the rules at all to do so. That would allow the Senate to begin a trial without any House impeachment managers, perhaps by giving Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell to choose managers from the Senate instead. That would certainly be one way to remind Pelosi that she’s not in charge on the other side of the Capitol, and for that matter neither is Schumer.
Otherwise, though, count me with Allahpundit in being utterly mystified as to what Pelosi thinks she’s accomplishing with a delay tactic. The longer this goes on, the more it undermines House Democrats’ insistence on the fierce urgency of now rather than following normal due process on the witnesses Schumer wants to call. It pushes a trial more and more into the Democratic presidential (and congressional!) primaries, which begin in February, interfering with their candidates’ messaging and firing up Trump’s supporters instead. All of this will take place while there is no way at all that Democrats will get 20 Senate Republicans to cross over and support removal on the basis of these articles, and likely will lose a couple of their own in the Senate.
Better to get that over with quickly enough so voters forget how weak their case was, rather than drag it out explicitly on the basis of that weakness. What am I missing here?
Update: Whatever it is, McConnell’s missing it too.
McConnell: “It’s beyond me how the Speaker and [Schumer] think withholding the articles of impeachment gives them leverage … Frankly, I’m not anxious to have the trial … If she thinks her case is so weak she doesn’t want to send it over, throw me into that briar patch.”
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) December 19, 2019