Senate Republicans say there isn’t an appetite within their conference for holding a third impeachment trial in five years, with some warning it is “a political loser” ahead of next year’s election.
Members of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) leadership team are already lowering the stakes of any impeachment proceeding by declaring it would have no chance of resulting in a conviction and removing President Biden from office.
“I sense very little appetite for a third impeachment trial,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the Senate GOP leadership team. “The House is going to do what the House is going to do and then we’ll have certain time frames to deal with it.”
Other Republican senators are cringing at the thought of sitting through another impeachment trial after slogging through the lengthy arguments presented at former President Trump’s impeachment trials in 2020 and 2021, which both resulted in acquittals.
The second of those trials also divided Republicans, with seven GOP senators voting to convict Trump. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who announced his retirement this week, is the only GOP senator who voted to convict Trump in both trials.
Senators are groaning at the prospect of spending weeks on yet another impeachment trial that is certain to result in an acquittal in a Senate held by Democrats when there’s enough floor time to consider the many other legislative agenda items that they view as higher priorities.
“I am so weary,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). “We’re seeing the threshold or bar for impeachment going lower and lower. Are we to expect this with every incoming president?”
Asked if she would want to have a trial, Murkowski said: “I am not anxious for this at all and I don’t think so, no.”
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) told reporters that he does not think it would “be advantageous if this thing went further, with all the other things we have to do.”
Even Trump’s closest Senate allies are hoping to avoid an impeachment trial.
“I’m not for going through another damn trial to be honest with you,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told CNN.
The sour view of the House impeachment effort among Senate Republicans will give cover to moderate Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) to vote to dismiss any articles of impeachment before the start of a trial.
Democrats say unless House Republicans turn up strong evidence that Biden committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the standard set by the Constitution, they would push a resolution to dismiss articles of impeachment as soon as they get to the Senate.
“It would be totally partisan and driven solely by the politics of a presidential election year,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said of the Republican impeachment inquiry. “There’s nothing there.
“My first question as a former prosecutor is, ‘What’s the evidence?’” he said. “After so many investigations and so much effort to find something wrong without partisan success, I just think it’s a complete distraction from what the American people are seeking for us to do.”
Blumenthal said he would vote to immediately dismiss articles of impeachment, “based on what I know now unless there’s something there that justifies having a trial.”
Senate Democrats control 51 seats and could dismiss the articles of impeachment on a straight party-line vote.
Tester, who faces a tough re-election in a state that Trump won with comfortable margins in 2016 and 2020, guffawed out loud when asked about the prospect of holding a third impeachment trial in four or five years.
“I’m sure people are laying awake, can’t wait for it,” he quipped. “If you look at some of the comments from some of the Republicans, I don’t think they’re very excited about it either.”
One Republican senator who requested anonymity to comment on the presentation that the lead House impeachment investigators made to the Senate GOP conference on Wednesday called the inquiry “futile.”
“It’s a futile effort. Politically I think it’s a loser, for sure,” the senator said.
GOP senators warn privately that if an article of impeachment against Biden is rejected by a majority vote of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate would be a political win for Biden heading into the 2024 election.
They note that the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton backfired in 1998 when Democrats picked up five House seats in that year’s midterm election, despite the long historical trend of the president’s party losing seats in the midterm election of a second presidential term.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer (R-Ky.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who are leading the impeachment inquiry, did not lay out any timeline for bringing articles of impeachment up for a vote when they briefed the Senate Steering Committee Wednesday.
Jordan told The Hill that the timeline would be “driven by the facts.”
Any charges against Biden could be dismissed by a majority vote as motions offered during a Senate impeachment trial are not debatable and cannot be filibustered under the Senate rules.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) attempted to dismiss the impeachment charge against Trump at the start of his 2021 impeachment trial but the motion was tabled by a vote of 55 to 45 with five Republicans voting with all Democrats to proceed with the trial.
A year earlier, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and other Republicans sponsored a resolution in 2020 to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump for what they called “lack of prosecution” in the House. The trial was still held and Trump was acquitted on two charges.
Republican senators say they see no chance of securing a conviction against Biden, which would require 67 votes.
“I don’t think that it’s going to result a removal on the Senate side,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, said, “I don’t know of anybody who believes Chuck Schumer will take it up and have a trial and convict a sitting president.”
Tuberville, a Trump ally, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” last week that articles of impeachment “couldn’t get the votes” to convict Biden.