McConnell reaffirms he has 'no choice': Senate will take up impeachment if it passes House

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that if the House impeaches President Trump he will “have no choice” but to hold a trial in the Senate and a vote on removing the president from office.

His comments in an interview with CNBC confirm the position he took in an interview with NPR in March, and the conclusion of a Senate staff memo that was obtained by HuffPost.

“Under the Senate rules we’re required to take it up if the House does go down that path, and we’ll follow the Senate rules,” McConnell said Monday. “It’s a Senate rule related to impeachment that would take 67 votes to change, so I would have no choice but to take it up. How long you’re on it is a whole different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”

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ARCHIVO - En esta foto de archivo del 30 de noviembre de 2018, la entonces embajadora de EEUU en Ucrania, Marie L. Yovanovitch, habla en Kiev. Yovanovich declara el viernes 11 de octubre de 2019 ante las comisiones del Congreso que investigan al presidente Donald Trump antes de posiblemente iniciarle juicio político. (AP Foto/Efrem Lukatsky)
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, arrives on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington, as she is scheduled to testify before congressional lawmakers on Friday as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, of Utah, addresses the media at Midvale Senior Citizens Center Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Midvale, Utah. McAdams is changing his position to support the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. He said Friday he has not made a decision on whether the president should be impeached, but he supports investigating what he calls serious allegations. McAdams was previously one of a small handful of undecided House Democrats. He says he changed his mind because the Trump administration is unlikely to cooperate with an investigation unless it's conducted as an impeachment inquiry. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks to reporters after the Trump administration blocked U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland from giving testimony in the House of Representatives' impeachment investigation of Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., reads a statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., steps away from a podium after reading a statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL.) speaks to news reporters following an Impeachment Proceeding announcement, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to the media in response to an announcement by Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the Capitol Building September 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry today after allegations that President Donald Trump sought to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate leading Democratic presidential contender, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, which was the subject of a reported whistle-blower complaint that the Trump administration has withheld from Congress. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) walks with her press secretary, Connor Joseph, to a House Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol where formal impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump were announced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi September 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. Spanberger is one of seven freshman members of the House with national intelligence or military backgrounds who recently spoke out in an opinion piece calling for an investigation of Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Reporters and congressional staff members wait outside a House Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol where formal impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump were announced by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi September 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry after allegations that President Donald Trump sought to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate leading Democratic presidential contender, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, which was the subject of a reported whistle-blower complaint that the Trump administration has withheld from Congress. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: Reporters crowd around Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., as he leaves the House Democrats caucus meeting in the Capitol on impeachment of President Trump on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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Protesters with Kremlin Annex with a light sign that reads "NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW" call to impeach President Donald Trump in Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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Even before the House began work on impeachment, speculation surfaced that McConnell could simply stall the process when and if it reached the Senate, possibly using the same rationale that he used to bury President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016: that with a new election looming, the voters should have a “voice” in the process. The Senate majority leader, who exercises virtually unchallenged power to determine what comes to the floor for a vote, has also been unilaterally holding up consideration of hundreds of bills passed by the House this year, including a widely supported measure on background checks for gun purchasers.

The Constitution gives the Senate the power to try the president if he is impeached by the House, but it does not set a timetable for the process.

But McConnell said he was prepared to see a trial — which would require 67 votes for conviction and removal from office — play out, and the Senate staff memo backs that position. “There is no way we could somehow bar the doors and prevent the managers from presenting the articles to the Senate,” stated the memo. “The rules of impeachment are clear on this point.”

McConnell said the same thing in a March interview with NPR: In case of impeachment, “the Senate has no choice. If the House were to act, the Senate immediately goes into a trial.”

McConnell’s political interests appear to be complicated. If the president survives a Senate trial, he could claim vindication in his reelection campaign. But the removal vote is seen as dangerous for some Republican senators up for reelection in 2020 in states where Trump is less popular, including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona.

“Voters are going to see this as a stinking fish. I don’t think voters are going to want their member of Congress or Senate to be up here defending the president’s actions,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told Politico. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Republicans come back from this [October] recess.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump last Tuesday after the White House released a memo of Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Following the decision was the release of an anonymous whistleblower complaint against the president over his repeated attempts to enlist Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, and allegedly withholding almost $400 million in military aid from Ukraine as leverage. Depositions and hearings on the matter are already scheduled for this week.

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