US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday proposed a condensed, two-day calendar for each side to give opening statements in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, ground rules that are raising objections from Democrats on the eve of the landmark proceedings.
The Republican leader outlined the process in a four-page resolution that will be voted on as one of the first orders of business when senators convene Tuesday. It also pushes off any votes on witnesses until later in the process, rather than up front, as Democrats demanded.
McConnell has been angling for a speedy trial toward acquittal of the charges against the president, and the closely held rules package arrived Monday after Trump's legal team asserted in a legal brief that he did “absolutely nothing wrong," urging the Senate to swiftly reject the “flimsy” and rigged impeachment case against him.
With Republicans holding the Senate majority, McConnell's proposal is likely to be approved by senators in the president's party.
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, called the GOP leader's proposed rules package a “national disgrace.”
“It’s clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through,” Schumer said. He vowed to propose votes to try to amend the package.
The rules package arrived late Monday as the Capitol was bracing for the start of the trial.
After the four days of opening statements — two days per side — senators will be allowed up to 16 hours for questions to the prosecution and defense, followed by four hours of debate. Only then will there be votes on calling other witnesses.
In the rare event that senators agree to call witnesses, the rules propose that any witness must be deposed and the Senate would then decide which ones, if any, would testify in public.
At the end of deliberations, the Senate would then vote on each impeachment article.
The White House welcomed the proposal for a speedy trial.