HELENA — U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Friday the possible impeachment of President Trump shouldn’t be affecting business in the Senate – but that majority Republican leadership is still holding up many unrelated bills from reaching the floor.
“(Impeachment) is not on our watch at all, and may never get to the Senate,” he said. “But the bottom line is, I think it’s being used as an excuse, instead of being able to work together and move things forward.”
The U.S. House, which is controlled by Democrats, is conducting an inquiry on whether to impeach the president. If the House takes that vote, the issue then moves to the Senate, which holds a trial on the impeachment charges.
Tester, in Helena for a roundtable on challenges faced by those with disabilities, told reporters afterwards that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is preventing spending bills from going to the floor – but continues to push through Trump’s federal judicial nominees.
“We’ve got hundreds of bills that we could be dealing with,” he said. “I mean, these are no-brainer bills that would pass with probably 80 votes or more.”
McConnell’s office told MTN News that Senate Democrats are the ones who have filibustered the defense-appropriations bill, possibly forcing Congress to pass “continuing resolutions” to keep the federal government operating.
Tester’s office said he voted against the defense-spending bill because Republicans won’t include guarantees that money for defense installations won’t be “raided to pay for President Trump’s costly Southern border wall.”
McConnell has said an earlier budget agreement with Democrats and the White House has not changed the president’s transfer authorities.
Tester said issues like health care, infrastructure and national security are still way more on the mind of Montanans than impeachment.
But when Montanans do ask about the impeachment issue, Tester said he tells them it’s a process that so far has occurred entirely in the House.
“Once the House gets done with the process, if they vote to impeach and send it over to the Senate, we’ll deal with the facts that come out,” he said. “(We’ll) act as a jury with the chief justice (of the Supreme Court) overseeing the Senate, and the senators being the jury, and deal with the facts and make the call to the best of our ability, either to convict or acquit.”
It takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict a president on impeachment charges. Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate.