House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not commit on Wednesday to sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, saying in a post-impeachment-vote news conference, “That would have been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”
Some progressives have urged Democratic leaders to withhold the articles until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, agrees to procedures for the Senate trial that Democrats have called for, as well as agreeing to bring in firsthand witnesses like acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify.
Pelosi said Democrats will make the decision “as a group” on when to send the articles to the Senate.
There are procedural concerns behind not sending the articles to the Senate on Wednesday night immediately after the votes. Among them: Democrats can’t send the articles at this time because the Senate would have to take them up Thursday, blocking votes on other measures, including a spending package that must pass before week’s end to avoid a government shutdown.
McConnell has openly sparred with his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, over the format of the Senate trial. Earlier this week, McConnell rejected Schumer’s call for four witnesses to testify.
In the coming days, the House must also name impeachment managers for the Senate’s trial, another step Pelosi was not ready to make Wednesday night.
“We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side, and we hope that will be soon,” Pelosi said. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us, so hopefully it will be fair.”
McConnell told Republican senators at a policy lunch Tuesday that he will announce the date for the start of the Senate trial by the end of the week, according to sources.
It’s unclear what advantages there would be to withholding the articles of impeachment from a Senate trial. When McConnell was asked this week about the possibility of articles not being sent over, he told reporters, “I’m in no hurry.”
One Republican senator told CNN in a text message, “If the Speaker thinks this magically gives Democrats leverage in the Senate she hasn’t been paying attention to how McConnell operates the last few decades.”