WASHINGTON (CN) – As the Senate debated the rules for President Donald Trump’s historic impeachment trial Tuesday, Senate Republicans beat back several amendments that would have added more documents and witnesses into the record.
Senate Republicans proposed a revised resolution Tuesday afternoon after their initial effort had Democrats blasting the rules as a cover-up, but the new procedures again fall short of what Democrats demand.
McConnell defended his initial proposal this morning as a workable path forward.
“Can we put fairness, evenhandedness ahead of the partisan passion of today?” McConnell asked in his opening remarks. “The resolution puts forward the support of the majority of the Senate because it sets up a structure that is fair, evenhanded and tracks closely with past precedents established unanimously.”
As originally conceived, those rules would have left unclear whether any witnesses would be called, any new evidence would be gathered, or even whether the Senate would recognize the fact record amassed for months by their colleagues in the House of Representatives. The amended version automatically transmits the House’s evidence to the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it telling that Trump’s allies did not want anyone in his administration to testify under oath.
“If the president’s case is so weak and none of the president’s men can defend him under oath, shame on him and those that allow it to happen,” the New York Democrat said on the floor Tuesday as the trial began.
Originally allowing for 24 hours of arguments within two Senate session days, the McConnell resolution initially paved the way for a possibility of proceedings that could stretch “into the dead of night,” Schumer said.
“If the president is so confident in his case… why don’t they want the case to be presenting in broad daylight?” Schumer pondered from the floor before the resolution was finally revised.
Indiana Republican Mike Braun told reporters amendments to McConnell’s original resolution happened during a lunch break since most lawmakers didn’t have time to review the resolution in full.
Once they did though, Braun said they thought it was prudent that submitting evidence from the House proceedings would be a good thing. The initial discussions took place when McConnell was absent, but the message was relayed by another senator.
“I think we arrived at a good, common-sense decision … All of us are going to be interested in hearing the case made. I think the big dynamic difference now is we have not heard the defense. We’re going to get that part; we’ll see if we glean anything new from it and we will arrive at all those big questions after phase one,” Braun said.
Later, when he stopped to speak with reporters outside the Senate chamber during a brief recess, Schumer said Democrats hoping to call witnesses found promise in McConnell’s changes.
“In other words, this idea that Mitch McConnell, whatever he does, every one of them will go along with doesn’t seem to be happening on two important issues,” Schumer said.
As to witness and document requests, even though the U.S. Constitution vests the Senate with the “sole power to try all impeachments,” Republicans hammered away on a single point Tuesday: it is the House that is the place to conduct evidence-gathering, not the Senate.