Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said Friday that she is coordinating with a “fairly small group” of Republicans, including senators and party leaders, on an agreement on impeachment trial rules that will allow witnesses to be called, according to the Bangor Daily News.
Collins made the comments to reporters in Maine on Friday, after spending her week on Capitol Hill expressing support for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal to start the trial without an agreement guaranteeing witnesses.
McConnell announced on Tuesday that he had the votes for a trial process that would move through the preliminary phases without a decision on witnesses until each side formally presents its case to the Senate.
Many other Senate Republicans have said they see no need whatsoever for new witnesses — a process McConnell is said to prefer as well. His move to lay out a procedure that doesn’t foreclose witnesses entirely suggests he didn’t have 51 GOP votes upfront for a witness-less trial. Democrats, who are also seeking subpoenas for additional documents to be produced, have accused McConnell of trying to do an end-run on the witness question by delaying that debate.
It’s unclear from the report of Collins’ Friday comments if the deal she is trying to hash out would guarantee whether witnesses be called, or if the rules she is seeking would still allow the Senate GOP to reverse any decision to subpoena witnesses. Democrats need the support of four Republicans to back any request by the House managers to call witnesses or subpoena documents for the trial.
Collins declined to say exactly how many Republicans were in her working group on the issue.
“[W]e should be completely open to calling witnesses,” she said, according to the Bangor Daily News.
“I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for both the House and the President’s counsel if they choose to do so,” she added.