While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) insists withholding articles from the Senate temporarily is just a procedural move, Republicans have already fully spun the delay as a sign Democrats are getting “cold feet” about impeachment.
First thing Thursday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor to decry the legitimacy of the impeachment case and to cryptically claim the Senate has a “clear duty,” without actually spelling out what step the Senate would take once the articles arrived from the House.
But he spent most of his speech accusing Democrats of getting “cold feet” and mocking Pelosi for being “too afraid” to send her “shoddy work product” over to the Senate. The talking point is quickly becoming a Republican deflection strategy just one day after their party’s President was impeached in the House.
While Pelosi did threaten to delay sending the articles to the Senate until there was a clear Senate trial plan on Wednesday evening, she started to back off the idea that she’s using the articles as leverage on Thursday morning. During her weekly press conference, she called the delay standard operating procedure, suggesting she couldn’t send the articles over until she knows how many impeachment managers to send, a number she couldn’t determine until she knows how the Senate plans to handle the trial.
But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from seizing on the slightly muddled messaging for their own political purposes. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the move a “constitutional crisis” in a tweet, before telling reporters on Thursday that it was “incredibly dangerous” for Democrats to hold onto the articles.
“You pass articles of impeachment in the House, you refuse to send them to the Senate until the Senate constructs a trial of your liking as speaker of the House,” he said. “We have separation of powers for a reason. You can’t be speaker of the House and majority leader in the Senate at the same time.”
Constitutional crisis unfolding before our eyes.
Senior Democratic leaders are openly contemplating refusing to send Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for disposition.
Trump Derangement Syndrome is reaching a new level! https://t.co/WHYOeC0ZiL
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 19, 2019
Sen. Lindsey Graham: "What they're proposing, to not send the articles for disposition to the Senate after being passed in the House, is incredibly dangerous." pic.twitter.com/EhgwIM7Omp
— The Hill (@thehill) December 19, 2019
Just before House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gave his weekly press conference on Thursday, President Trump clearly got the memo, tweeting that House Democrats’ impeachment case is “so pathetic” that Pelosi is “afraid” to send it over to the Senate.
Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up! The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2019
During his press conference, McCarthy embraced the spin.
“Now we have the own speaker of the House, who is so embarrassed, she admits the failure of this impeachment that she will not even send it to the Senate,” he said. “So embarrassed that I saw in her press conference that she wouldn’t even take your questions. That is not a good legacy to have. She is admitting defeat by not sending it. By refusing to send impeachment over, she know this outcome is not good.”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 19, 2019