KETR

After Senate Votes Against Witnesses, Impeachment Trial Final Vote Expected Next Week

Jan 31, 2020
Originally published on January 31, 2020 7:15 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Trump's impeachment trial is now being extended into next week. The plan had been to move on to a final vote as early as tonight, but plans have changed. Earlier this evening, senators voted not to call witnesses to testify in these proceedings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The yeas are 49; the nays are 51 - the motion is not agreed to.

CHANG: And then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ordered a recess without saying what comes next. Joining us now to bring us up to speed is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell.

Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: All right, so a lot has happened tonight in the Senate. Can you just catch us up on where things stand right now?

SNELL: Yeah. After a long delay, after closing arguments wrapped up, they finally voted. It was a 51-49 against calling additional witnesses. Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, voted with the Democrats to try to call witnesses, but they came up short. But then they went into that indefinite recess to kind of work out the details and emerge with an agreement on a path forward. The new plan would allow them to leave tonight and come back on Monday - no work over the weekend.

CHANG: Yay.

SNELL: (Laughter) Happiness all around. And it also means that they would recess as a court of impeachment sometime on Monday. So that means no more special rules, no more warnings that they have to be silent on pain of imprisonment.

CHANG: (Laughter) Right.

SNELL: No more requirements that they actually be here. And then they'll be allowed to give closing arguments and give speeches until they are ready to vote on a final vote to acquit.

CHANG: And when would that final vote be under this plan?

SNELL: Yeah, so the vote either to acquit or convict will happen on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

CHANG: OK.

SNELL: Now, that's after the State of the Union...

CHANG: Right.

SNELL: ...Which was one of those major pressure points that we had heard of for them to try to get it done. It will be now after the Iowa caucuses. And Iowa caucuses are on Monday. And the thing I was just noticing in these rules that I'm reading - they don't get rid of the rules that they have to stay here and be in their seats until sometime on Monday. So that means the four Democrats running for president whose names are on the ballot out there in Iowa could still be stuck in Washington.

CHANG: Oh, yeah. Well, why did they want to slow things down? I mean, do we know whose idea this all was?

SNELL: We don't know exactly where that idea originated, but we do know that Democrats and Republicans both wanted this to happen. They've been silent on the Senate floor for roughly 10 days now, and they really want to talk. They want to be able to explain their votes. I think that they - as I've talked to them, they say that they feel like they need to explain to the American public why they're choosing either to acquit or to convict. They feel that they need the opportunity to speak directly to people and that a press release simply doesn't do the same job as standing up and speaking it into the Senate record.

CHANG: OK. Well, ultimately, though, does this delay and any way change what we expect the outcome of this whole impeachment trial to be?

SNELL: No. Because we have, as we've talked to all of these Democrats and Republicans, really found that they came into this pretty much with their minds made up. This is a partisan exercise. We still are waiting to hear from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat who hasn't said exactly how he'll vote on conviction. We have to also hear from Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another Democrat whose vote is up in the air.

But by and large, we have a really good idea of where things are headed. After that witness vote that we already heard, the major questions of this trial are done. The only thing that's left right now is to give people a chance to talk.

CHANG: That's NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell.

Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.