WASHINGTON, January 30, 2020 — Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)’s announcement that he will not support additional witnesses or document subpoenas in the impeachment trial, almost guarantees that no witnesses will be called.
At best, Democrats can hope for a 50-50 tie when the Senate votes Friday on a resolution on whether to allow for the House or Trump’s team to request witness or document subpoenas.
There’s a chance that Chief Justice John Roberts — who is serving as the presiding officer, a role in other circumstances played by the Vice President — could cast a vote to break the tie. But there’s no requirement that he cast such a vote, and Roberts’ desire to appear above the political fray suggests he won’t.
There’s precedent in impeachments for the presiding chief justice for casting tie-breaking votes and for declining to break ties. Without such a tiebreaker, the motion to open the door to witnesses will fail.
So far, the only other witness-curious Republican to announce her vote on Friday was Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who said she will support Friday’s witness motion. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has also sent strong signals that he’ll support it, even though he has not yet issued his official position.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the moderate whose vote Democrats will need just for a tie, said she will release a statement with her position on Friday morning.
Murkowski delaying her decision overnight puts Republicans — and Roberts — in a position of waiting to see if Roberts will break a tie, or if Alexander’s opposition to witnesses will make it less likely that she’ll support the measure.
Alexander and Murkowski met in private at the last major break in Thursday’s impeachment proceedings.