The House and Senate are gone.
But be on the lookout for any signals that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and incoming Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are having conversations about impeachment. One of the key dynamics that will govern whether senators push forward with an impeachment trial at the beginning of President-elect Joe Biden’s presidency or whether they wait is going to be whether Republicans agree to allow some of Biden’s nominees to move quickly through their confirmation processes in the mornings before the trial. Multiple sources have told CNN that there isn’t a clear signal yet whether Republicans would allow the kind of dual-tracking Senate trial that Biden has suggested he’d like to see.
Also, keep your eye on the statements coming from Republican senators: Over the next several days, some Republicans senators will make it very clear where they stand on impeachment. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, both Republicans from South Carolina, have done that. Last night, Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, did it too. Cotton said that after Trump leaves office, “the Senate lacks constitutional authority to conduct impeachment proceedings against a former President.”
Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio who is up for reelection in 2022, said his decision with be based off of not only the evidence he hears, but “among my considerations will be what is best to help heal our country rather than deepen our divisions.”
A reminder that Republicans must have 17 members vote “yes” to convict Trump in the Senate. All eyes have been on what McConnell decides. Multiple GOP aides have told CNN that McConnell’s decision will certainly have an impact on the conference. But, it’s also important to remember that while McConnell has a lot of influence, he’s not going to be whipping members on a vote like this. And, for members in states where Trump is popular, McConnell’s vote may not sway them at all.
What we know
A Senate impeachment trial is not going to start until January 20 at the earliest.
What we don’t know
This list is a long one. We don’t know when the trial will start. We don’t know how long it is going to be.
While Democrats pushed hard to impeach Trump in the House, the reality of what a trial could mean for the opening days of Biden’s Presidency is just sinking in. Senate Democrats are still all over the map, according to several members and aides. And, Biden isn’t talking much to rank-and-file members about what he wants to see. So much of the timing of the trial will be based on whether McConnell and Schumer can work out an agreement that gives Biden time in the mornings to get some of his nominees. Again, anything in the Senate can move swiftly with agreement. Without it, the Senate is an excessively deliberate body.