Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed that if the House of Representatives did vote to impeach President Donald Trump, he would be forced to have the Senate vote on whether or not to remove the president from office.
What did McConnell say?
In an interview Monday, CNBC host Carl Quintanilla asked McConnell how he'd handle things if the House did in fact vote to impeach.
This may seem like an obvious question, but the U.S. Constitution does not require that the Senate vote on an impeachment resolution from the House. And while the House votes to impeach, only the Senate can remove a president from office.
But McConnell pointed out that a rule did exist: not in the Constitution, but in the rules of the Senate itself:
It's a Senate rule related to impeachment, which would take 67 votes to change. So I would have no choice but to take it up. How long you are 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.
Assuming that Republicans fill the vacant seat left by the resignation of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) before the vote with one of their own, they will still only have 199 seats to the 235 held by Democrats (the remaining seat is held by former Republican Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.). This means that Democrats could get the simple majority they need to impeach, even if every Republican were to vote against it and even if more than a dozen Democrats decided to defect. It is far less likely, however, that the GOP-controlled Senate would vote to convict.
What's the background?
After resisting calls for impeachment from within her own party for months, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced last Tuesday that she was ready to begin impeachment proceedings. The catalyst for this move came after a whistleblower reported that Trump had asked the president of Ukraine to investigate current 2020 Democratic front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden.
To date only two presidents in U.S history have ever been impeached: Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson (who fought against Congress' attempts to grant rights to former slaves), and Bill Clinton. Impeachment loomed for Richard Nixon, but he resigned from office before Congress could follow through on its threats.