Everything now depends on Mitch McConnell. The stalwart 78-year-old senator from Kentucky was the primary enforcer of Donald Trump’s policy as majority leader in the lower house of parliament. But after the election, the power politician turned away from the president. His vote could now decide whether Trump will be formally removed from office following the impeachment charge and thus banned from participating in 2024.
But McConnell is currently doing what he likes to do best: he looks like a sphinx through his glasses. “Five or six colleagues called me and asked, What does Mitch want to do?”, A Republican senator reported to the “Punchbowl” newsletter. Nobody knows at the moment, so the further progress of the impeachment decided by the Lower House by 232 to 197 votes is in the stars.
One thing is clear: Until January 22, the day the two newly elected Democratic senators from Georgia are sworn in, Republicans in the Senate still have a majority and McConnell is in charge. This is where the actual deposition process takes place. McConnell will not receive a lightning-fast condemnation from the president at the next senate session on Tuesday. Trump’s tenure ends Wednesday at noon local time. The proceedings will therefore – in the coming weeks or months – be conducted against private citizen Donald Trump.
In principle, removal from the office is also possible afterwards. However, this never happened in the US, so the case will likely go to the Supreme Court. The Democrats in Parliament consider the process important afterwards, given the scale of the misconduct. A president’s “call to rebellion” (this is the indictment) cannot go unpunished. “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” said their group leader Steny Hoyer.
However, future president Joe Biden doesn’t seem too keen on the impeachment. He has stated on several occasions that this is a matter for Congress. There are two reasons for the unwillingness: on the one hand, Biden wants to come up with a message of reconciliation. The process is likely to amplify the country’s polarization at first. Above all, Biden urgently needs the support of the Senate to confirm his cabinet and his first political initiatives in the corona crisis. Once the charge of impeachment has officially arrived in the chamber, it cannot do anything else according to the rules of procedure.
Biden’s allies therefore figured out ways in advance to postpone the formal deposition. Influential MP Jim Clyburn suggested that the resolution on allegations would be forwarded from the House of Representatives to the Senate within 100 days. But that was met with protest from the left party. Now the Biden team has proposed an amendment to the rules of procedure so that the Senate can spend half of its sitting on current affairs despite the impeachment: economy, ”said Biden. “I hope the Senate leadership will find a way to meet their constitutional obligations upon impeachment while addressing the nation’s other pressing concerns.”
Trump’s final conviction after the trial would have to be decided by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. This would require the votes of 17 Republicans. So far, only three or four have announced their approval. But McConnell has reportedly shown internal sympathy for the impeachment.
One consequence of this is likely more important than the actual impeachment anyway: if Trump were to be removed from office, the Senate could rule by a simple majority that the ex-president should no longer hold public office. For the potential presidential candidates in 2024, the exile of the demagogic competitor would be a welcome side effect.