LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It will take 17 GOP senators to break ranks and make a conviction of President Trump possible when the new evenly-split US Senate takes office.
Some believe Senator Mitch McConnell may have just helped pave the way.
In a letter to Republican senators, McConnell said, “While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”
The statement was an obvious change from McConnell’s support of President Trump during the previous impeachment.
“When a legislative leader signals that he’s open to members voting in either direction,” University of Kentucky Political Science Associate Professor Stephen Voss said, “that signals to them they won’t have to pay the costs of voting their consciences which really usually means voting the politics of their home states.”
McConnell sent the letter after widespread reports citing an unnamed republican consultant who said party donors were critical of Trump’s role in the Capitol riot and that McConnell said he was no longer supporting Trump. Observers agree McConnell is already looking for a way to navigate impeachment toward an outcome that will help regain the senate majority and reclaim his position as Senate majority leader.
“With 20 of his senators up for re-election, he’s really in a position where he has to decide how can we maintain those seats and pick up a few more in the next election?” UK Political Science Professor Tiffany Barnes said.
McConnell’s vote is also expected to play a role in defining party politics at the state level. “The Leader has always been a party builder here in the state,” Republican political consultant Tres Watson said. “And his move will have impacts that will ripple down through the rest of the party.”