The Democrats needed four Republicans to join them in a vote to allow witnesses at the Trump Impeachment trial. Mitt Romney, amazingly enough, came out early in favor of doing so. Susan Collins followed. But Lisa Murkowski, who had voted against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, said no. “Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed,” said Murkowski, R-Alaska, a key moderate senator who has been closely watched on the witness question.”
On the other hand, Collins had voted for Kavanaugh. Collins, Romney, and Murkowski are some of the few moderate Republicans remaining in the Senate.
Murkowski was re-elected to her seat in 2016. On the other hand, Collins is up for re-election this year, and she faces stern Democratic opposition.
“Collins has long relied on her moderate, independent brand to dispatch previous challengers by double digits, but Democrats are hoping her vote for Kavanaugh and the difficulty of running with Trump on the ticket will help them finally pick up this seat. Collins hasn’t officially announced she’s running for a fifth term, but she’s been raising money like a candidate and had $7.1 million on hand as of Sept. 30. Still, state House Speaker Sara Gideon, who has locked up much of the Democratic establishment support, outraised Collins, $3.2 million to $2.3 million in the third quarter. The eventual Democratic nominee will also be able to tap into $4 million donated by angry contributors after Collins’ Kavanaugh vote.”
The four Republican Senators most watched on the witness question were Romney, Murkowski, Collins and Lamar Alexander. They made up a moderate group during much of the impeachment trial. Romney and Collins came out early in favor of allowing witnesses to testify. Alexander came out against, and Murkowski was the last to decide.
If she had joined Romney and Collins, there would have been a tie vote, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts would have had to vote. If he refused to vote, the tie vote would mean that the Democrats could call witnesses.
Personally, I believe that Collins was compelled by her re-election situation to vote in favor of allowing witnesses. As noted above, her anti-moderate vote in the Kavanaugh situation resulted in $4 million being raised to oppose her re-election. That’s a lot of money in a small state like Maine. So Murkowski voted against allowing witnesses to ensure that the Republicans won this key vote. Had Collins voted against allowing witnesses, I am willing to bet that Murkowski would have voted to allow witnesses.
The Republican leadership knew that they had to allow Collins to vote the way she did. They didn’t want to lose the Maine senatorial seat. They couldn’t get Romney to change his mind and had no way of pressuring him. But Murkowski would be up for election in 2022, and if she didn’t do the leadership’s bidding, she would have faced a powerful primary opponent then.
That’s what I think, anyway.