WASHINGTON — House Republicans are introducing legislation calling for senators running for president in 2020 to sit out the impeachment trial.
Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri will introduce a resolution Thursday recommending that any senator running to challenge President Donald Trump should recuse themselves from the expected Senate trial. The resolution was provided in advance to BuzzFeed News. It is unlikely to pass in the Democrat-controlled House and would not be binding but would serve as a suggestion from the House.
Specifically, the resolution asks the Senate to change its rules to force the presidential contenders to recuse, noting that “a sitting United States Senator actively seeking to unseat the incumbent President of the United States cannot claim impartiality in his or her political opponent’s impeachment trial.”
As of now, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet are all still in the race for president and will sit in the likely trial, which could begin as soon as January.
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“Just how the Founding Fathers understood the clear conflict of interests that the Vice President would have in an impeachment proceeding, there too exists a conflict of interest for a number of Senators who are trying to become their party’s nominee and face Trump at the ballot box,” Smith said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “This resolution is all about fairness. No Senator should participate in this trial when they are able to abuse their position in the Congress by attempting to remove a President from office while also helping their own political ambitions.”
On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will be moving forward with drafting articles of impeachment. Should the House vote to pass the articles, which Democrats hope to do before Christmas, the Senate would then began an impeachment trial to determine whether or not Trump should be removed from office.
During the impeachment trial, senators are obligated to be in session from Monday through Saturday as early as noon. That means the senators running for president will be stuck in Washington six days a week as long as the trial lasts, rather than out on the campaign trail with the other Democratic candidates.
During former president Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, the Senate convened for five weeks.
Smith will also send a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer next week, urging them to change the rules and force the candidates to sit out the trial. In the letter, which was obtained in advance by BuzzFeed News, Smith says that any claim of impartiality on behalf of senators running for president would be a “mockery of our democratic institutions,” as the senators have already come out in favor of impeachment.
“These Senators have already reached a verdict, dismissing the fundamental principle of our Democracy that Americans are innocent until proven guilty. … We should all agree President Trump’s right to due process and a fair impeachment trial is of the upmost importance. It is unfathomable that any Senator currently running for President could do impartial justice according to the Constitution and rules of impeachment,” Smith wrote.
Smith will send copies of the letter to the senators running for president.
Republicans have hammered away at the idea that the impeachment is partisan, but Smith’s resolution focusing on the presidential contenders is a new tactic. More than two dozen Republicans have signed on as original sponsors of the resolution.
“Unless it benefited their fundraising or propped up their campaign issues page, the Senate Democrats running for president have ignored their day job and their constituents,” Rep. Mark Walker, one of the sponsors of the resolution, told BuzzFeed News. “Suddenly returning to Washington in pursuit of their ‘Spartacus moment’ is an embarrassment to our standards of judicial impartiality and a poor excuse for public service.”