Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Monday tore into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., just days after the speaker backed down from her refusal to send the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, calling Pelosi’s delay a “strange gambit” that “produced absolutely nothing.”
During a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell chastised Pelosi for ending what he called “her one-woman blockade” and questioned her strategy for holding off sending the articles to the Senate.
The House in December voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for matters relating to his controversial July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the subsequent House inquiry.
Pelosi had held up sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about McConnell’s objectivity and the lack of ability to call witnesses to testify in the trial in hopes of winning concessions from Republicans. But McConnell refused to give in.
In a television appearance over the weekend, Pelosi defended the delay, arguing Democrats were successful in making the case to the American people that the Senate trial should include witnesses.
“What we think we accomplished in the past few weeks is that we wanted the public to see the need for witnesses,” Pelosi said during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Pelosi also warned Sunday that senators will “pay a price” if they block new witness testimony with a trial that Americans perceive as a “cover-up” for Trump’s actions.
“It’s about a fair trial,” Pelosi said. “The senators who are thinking now about voting for witnesses or not, they will have to be accountable.”
She added: “Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay a price.”
McConnell is reluctant to enter a divisive Senate debate over witnesses that could split his party and prolong a trial that is already expected to consume weeks of floor time.
He is seeking a speedy acquittal and has proposed a process similar to the presidential impeachment trial of Bill Clinton in 1999, which would start the proceedings and then vote later on hearing new testimony.
One leading Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has already predicted that the trial would end ”in a matter of days.″ Graham and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. are leading the effort to dismiss the charges against Trump.
The Democratic-run House has not yet set the timing for this week’s vote to transmit the impeachment articles to the Senate. Pelosi will meet behind closed doors with House Democrats to decide next steps on Tuesday morning ahead of the party’s presidential primary debate that evening, the last before the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3.
Once the Republican-led Senate receives the charges, the trial is expected to begin swiftly.