Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared in April that he was, for all intents and purposes, the “Grim Reaper” when it came to highly partisan legislation passed out of the Democrat-controlled House.
Now, there are some Republican voices urging McConnell to hold true to that “Grim Reaper” attitude in the event that the House passes articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and sends them to the Senate for a trial.
The “Merrick Garland treatment”
The New York Post reported that there is a line of thinking among some Republicans that McConnell actually holds the power of deciding whether or not to take up articles of impeachment passed by the House. By this logic, the majority leader could figuratively kill the measure without debate or even a trial.
The general assumption by most Americans is that the Senate would follow suit with a trial if the House were to pass articles of impeachment, but there actually isn’t any requirement for the Senate to act at all.
Indeed, Politico recently published a piece noting that McConnell could give a Trump impeachment the “Merrick Garland treatment,” a reference to the Supreme Court nominee offered up by former President Barack Obama who was ignored by McConnell’s Republican Senate and was never granted any hearings or a confirmation vote.
McConnell argued at the time that, being so close to an election, it should be left for the voters to decide who they wanted to nominate a Supreme Court justice.
“You’ve got to make a case”
While a move to block an impeachment trial would be “unprecedented,” it isn’t entirely out of the question.
“You’re going to start hearing that argument and much more loudly, because we’re not too far away from the moment when voters start voting,” Michael Steel, a Republican operative and aide to former House Speaker John Boehner, told Politico. “You’ve got to make the case why it matters and why it rises to the level of removing an elected president of the United States from the White House.”
For his part, McConnell has said in the past that he’d have “no choice” but to conduct a trial if the House passed articles of impeachment against Trump.
Still, the fact that there is no real requirement in the Constitution or statutory law that the Senate “must” conduct a trial if the House passes articles of impeachment was duly noted by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R), who led the House in impeaching former President Bill Clinton only to see him be acquited in the Senate.
In an email to Politico, Gingrich said a trial would be entirely “up to the Senate,” and added that there is “no way to force them to act.”
But only time will tell what the majority leader decides to do.