Senate looks for holiday truce on impeachment trial

“That’s the last thing we want to do is be here over Christmas,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “I can’t imagine anyone will object. You never know for sure. It would be widely criticized by folks on both sides of the aisle, anybody who [fought it] and forced us to stay here.”

“Impeachment is a huge issue. And I don’t think we should rush into it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said. “We ought to find a way to wait till January, get through the holidays and then tackle it. I think to take it up before Christmas, a lot of bad things can happen, you move too fast — you don’t really hear it all.”

A delay might not be to everyone’s benefit. A person familiar with the White House’s thinking said the administration’s preference is to start the trial with no delay and it is actively seeking that result. And five Senate Democrats are still running for president; a trial starting in December would be less disruptive to their work campaigning in the early states, with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 2.

But the Senate takes its scheduled breaks seriously and senators may need to rest up ahead of the grueling impeachment trial and its six-day workweek. Though many are busy when they are in their home states, senators are accustomed to something far more laid back when in Washington: Fly in on Monday afternoon and leave early Thursday afternoon.

And canceling a holiday recess for one of the most extraordinary events in the Senate’s history is not popular in any corner of the chamber. Plus there’s precedent for a delay: The Senate similarly postponed December action on former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial until January the next year.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who often takes lone positions that chafe his colleagues, signaled he is unlikely to spoil the holiday break. While he prefers the trial start “never,” he predicts it will begin in January.

“We don’t agree on a lot around here but that should be one thing we can agree on,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said.

The House is on track to impeach Trump by the end of next week, but as of Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) still hadn’t sat down to discuss the timing and structure of a trial. And if they are eager to move the trial to January, they will have to form some sort of an agreement.