News & Politics

McConnell Threatens to Nullify Impeachment if Pelosi Doesn't Deliver Articles

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber for votes on federal judges as a massive budget pact between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump is facing a key vote in the GOP-held Senate later, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Many conservatives in the Republican-led Senate are torn between supporting President Donald Trump and risking their political brand with an unpopular vote to add $2 trillion or more to the federal debt. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that if she does not turn over the articles of impeachment, he will act as though the House had never passed them in the first place. He has signed on to a Senate rule change that would allow the upper house to dismiss with prejudice any articles of impeachment the House of Representatives chose not to send on to the Senate. Pelosi has still refused to forward the articles on, claiming the Senate trial would be unfair.

In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell quoted Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, “‘The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.’ Period. The House can begin the process, and Speaker Pelosi’s majority has certainly done that. But the Senate alone can resolve it,” he said.

“And yet for weeks now, the House majority has blocked the Senate from fulfilling our constitutional duty. In a precedent-breaking display of partisanship, the Speaker has refused to let her own allegations proceed normally to trial unless she gets to hand-design various elements of our Senate process,” he added. “In other words, the House Democrats already spent 12 weeks undermining the institution of the presidency with an historically unfair and subjective impeachment… and now, for the sequel, they’ve come after the institution of the Senate as well. That’s where we are.”

McConnell warned that this will set a dangerous precedent.

“Should future House majorities feel empowered to waste our time with junior-varsity political hostage situations? Should future Speakers be permitted to conjure up this sword of Damocles at will and leave it hanging over the Senate unless we do what they say?”

The majority leader warned Pelosi that if she continued to stall the articles, he would reject them out of hand.

“If the Speaker continues to refuse to take her own accusations to trial, the Senate will move forward next week with the business of our people,” he said. “We will operate on the assumption that House Democrats are too embarrassed to ever move forward.”

Indeed, The Washington Examiner reported that McConnell signed on to Senate Resolution 463, which would change the Senate rules regarding impeachment.

Under the resolution, if the House of Representatives passes articles of impeachment but does not forward those articles to the Senate within 25 calendar days, “such articles shall be deemed exhibited before the Senate and it shall be in order for any Senator to offer a motion to dismiss such articles with prejudice for failure by the House of Representatives to prosecute such articles.”

A motion to dismiss the articles would only require a majority vote to pass.

While the resolution would enable the Senate to dismiss an impeachment with prejudice, S. Res. 463 would change the rules of the chamber, so it requires 67 votes to pass. Some Democrats have urged Pelosi to forward the articles to the Senate, but it seems unlikely they will support this resolution.

Pelosi rushed the impeachment of President Donald Trump, calling it urgent and refusing to allow a presidential privilege claim to proceed to court. Yet now she has stalled on the articles, raising questions about the legitimacy of the impeachment. McConnell is right to insist that the Senate should move on. The House has essentially pocket vetoed this impeachment.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.