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McConnell unlikely to pursue dismissal vote of impeachment articles

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Mitch McConnell heads to a briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other national security officials on Jan. 8, 2020 on Capitol Hill.   -  
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J. Scott Applewhite AP
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WASHINGTON — While President Donald Trump has tweeted that he would like to see the Senate dismiss the impeachment articles against him ahead of a trial, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to hold a such a vote.

That's because there is little appetite from Republican members facing difficult re-election races in 2020 to cast a vote that could be seen as overly protective of the president, GOP aides and senators say.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would like to see "2020 Republican incumbents in tough voting situations. So I think recognizing that that's his goal, I think it won't surprise you that we're thinking about that too, and how to avoid that as much as possible," Cornyn said.

McConnell announced last week that he has enough Republican votes to pass a resolution outlining the parameters of a trial that mirrors the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999. While such as a resolution would mandate that opening statements and Senate questions come before a vote on whether to allow witnesses, the text of the resolution has not been released, in part, because McConnell has been surveying his members on the possibility of a motion to dismiss.

"I think our members are generally not interested in a motion to dismiss," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of leadership, said. He noted that the Clinton impeachment trial included a motion to dismiss, but added, "I think I'm safe in saying there's almost no interest" in one for this trial.

Instead of a motion to dismiss, Republicans are contemplating alternatives to move quickly but look less dismissive of the trial and the charges.

A motion to dismiss was added in the Clinton trial to appease Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, but took place after the first two phases of the trial — opening statements and the question and answer period — had concluded. That motion failed and Senators moved on to hear from witnesses.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is one of those in a difficult position of attempting to show her independence from the president without upsetting his supporters. She said she voted against the motion to dismiss in the Clinton impeachment and "anticipates" doing so again — if there is a vote on it.

"I would anticipate voting against a motion to dismiss as opposed to going through the whole process and then going to a final arguments and having a vote on each article of impeachment," Collins said Monday night.

Retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., an institutionalist who could break with the president, said Monday evening that he would not vote on a motion to dismiss because he wants to decide if he wants to hear from witnesses.

"I would vote against the motion to dismiss. I think we need to hear the case. Ask your questions. Then, as they did in the Clinton impeachment, we ought to decide then whether we need to hear from additional witnesses or need additional documents. So a motion to dismiss is not consistent with hearing the case," Alexander told NBC News.

A senior Democratic aide said McConnell's likely decision not to pursue a motion to dismiss shows McConnell is "desperately trying to keep his members in line." And vulnerable Republicans could still face such a vote if a Democrat calls for a dismissal at any time during the trial.

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