If the Democrats’ bid to impeach the president succeeds in the House, it may mean disaster for a few key candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, according to Buzzfeed News, which finally worked out the timing on Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry.
Several of the top ten Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) serve in the Senate and would be required to stay in Washington, D.C., for the duration of any impeachment trial. Three other also-ran candidates — Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would also be forced to leave the campaign trail.
Buzzfeed reports that a House impeachment vote is growing more likely, especially as the White House has refused to cooperate with the investigation, leaving the House with few witnesses to depose. An official vote, some experts predict, could come as early as November or December, before the House adjourns for the holidays.
The timing of that vote is great for some of the Democrats running the 2020 presidential nomination; they can use the impeachment vote to drum up support on the campaign trail and fire up the Democratic base. But after the House votes to impeach — and chances are, they will — the Senate must do its job, holding a trial to decide whether the president should be removed from office, and all senators are required to take part.
“An impeachment trial would consume every senator’s schedule,” Buzzfeed reports. “Under the Senate’s current rules, all senators must be in session Monday through Saturday, starting at around noon each day. The trial may last several weeks — Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial lasted five — thus taking several candidates off the campaign trail the month before the primaries start.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) has already agreed to allow an impeachment trial to take place in the Senate if the House votes to impeach. The theory likely is that an ongoing impeachment proceeding would benefit the president on the campaign trail and harm moderate and “Red State” Democrats up for re-election in both houses of Congress, since they’ll have to answer to constituents on the campaign trail over the summer in 2020.
A lengthy trial also provides the GOP with plenty of sound bites for campaign commercials and certainly demonstrates that the president’s concerns about being the subject of a constant “witch hunt” effectively just in time for his re-election campaign to shift into high gear are not unfounded. And, as one aide pointed out to Buzzfeed, it keeps Democrats focused on national issues, rather than what’s important to voters.
“Coverage is great, but is that what Iowans, Nevadans, etc., want to talk about — no,” the unnamed aide told Buzzfeed. “They want to talk about the issues that matter to them, health care, jobs, etc. Not being able to be in the states talking to voters will be tough. … That said, wall-to-wall coverage on TV, not terrible.”
But it also takes major candidates off the trail for at least a month — and there’s no incentive for Republicans to make the impeachment trial short. The Senate could also agree to exempt certain members from the trial, but that would require Republicans to allow Sanders, Warren, Harris, Booker, Klobuchar, and Bennett to have time off.