“The bottom line is very simple,” Schumer answered, after Roberts gave him permission, “as has been clear to every senator and the country: We believe witnesses and documents are extremely important, and a compelling case has been made for them. We will have votes on all of those.” Schumer went on to complain that McConnell himself had deviated from his initial promise to model the rules for this impeachment on those that governed Bill Clinton’s 21 years ago, and had sprung the final version on the Democrats only moments before the trial began. “So there will be a good number of votes,” he allowed.
Within the genteel parameters of Senate decorum, it was Schumer’s gritted-teeth way of reminding McConnell of payback’s high price. Indeed, when I asked a veteran Democratic Senate aide to explain the source of McConnell and Schumer’s mutual animosity, his answer was immediate and succinct.
“Merrick Garland, Merrick Garland, Merrick Garland,” said Jim Manley, who was a top aide to Senators Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy. He was referring, of course, to McConnell’s refusal to act on President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nomination with nearly a year left in his White House tenure, a vacancy that was eventually filled by Neil Gorsuch, a conservative-leaning justice appointed by Trump. “For many Democrats, that was the final straw,” Manley said. “Those that had been in the Senate for many years saw McConnell increasingly using the filibuster to block everything that the Democrats tried to bring to the floor. Then all of a sudden, he made up this phony election-year rule that prevented Garland from even getting a hearing. They saw that as proof that he was nothing more than a naked partisan prepared to use every tool available to prevent President Obama from getting anything done.”
Under the Senate’s usual rules, the minority party—and even a single senator—has significant power to delay or alter the proceedings. But under the impeachment-trial rules, McConnell can resolve any dispute by simple majority vote—and, for the moment anyway, he has the votes to do so. That’s why Schumer and the Democrats were so determined to force votes on each amendment, in an attempt to hammer home their contention that the trial, in its present incarnation, is inherently unfair. It’s the only leverage they have, and the only real remaining suspense is whether at least four GOP senators might join Democrats next week in agreeing to seek witness testimony or subpoena more documents. Schumer and McConnell met once for about 20 minutes in December to discuss settling on bipartisan procedures for the trial but made no progress, and have been in open warfare ever since.
David Graham: No, Democrats aren't trying to overturn the 2016 election
In his opening remarks yesterday, Schumer dismissed McConnell’s rules for the trial as “nothing short of a national disgrace” and “completely partisan,” while McConnell portrayed his plan as “a fair road map” that would ensure “finally, some fairness” in the impeachment inquiry. It escaped no one’s notice in the chamber that those propositions are inherently irreconcilable, and if McConnell and Schumer had yet to engage in any further sparring as today wore on, it was only because neither side chose to present any motions that might be the subject of the full Senate’s debate, so the House managers had unbroken access to the floor to present their case instead.