WASHINGTON — Ten Republican senators have signed onto Sen. Josh Hawley’s proposal to change the Senate rules to enable the chamber to dismiss President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

The Missouri Republican’s proposed rules change would empower the Senate to dismiss articles of impeachment if the House fails to deliver them within 25 days of its impeachment vote.

Hawley’s resolution, unveiled Monday, is a response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to withhold the articles of impeachment against Trump in an effort to compel the GOP-controlled Senate to call witnesses when it holds its trial of the president. Pelosi’s strategy prevents the Senate from voting to acquit Trump from the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

A change to the Senate rules requires a two-thirds majority of 67 votes. Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate, so Hawley’s proposal stands little chance unless majority Republicans take the “nuclear option” to bypass the rules and pass the measure with 51 votes.

Impeachment and President Trump

Hawley’s proposal may be more useful to Republicans as a rhetorical hammer to hit Democrats with in the short-term.

The former Missouri attorney general has argued that a criminal prosecutor would have a case dismissed against a defendant for using similar tactics. Hawley’s proposal is meant to pressure Pelosi, a California Democrat, to hand over the articles or to give the Senate an option if the delay continues.

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“In a normal courtroom, in a real world, if the prosecutor does not try his or her case, if they don’t actually bring it forward to the court, the defendant can say, all right, then we’re dismissing the case,” Hawley said Monday on Fox News. “The court can say, we’re dismissing the case. In this instance, the Senate is the court and it’s time for us to take action.”

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor who advised House Democrats during the impeachment process, said if Hawley’s proposal received the 67 votes required to change a Senate rule it could apply to future impeachments but not necessarily Trump’s impeachment.

“Attempting to apply it retroactively to the Articles voted on December 18 and thereby changing the rules in midstream would be another matter altogether and might well be unconstitutional,” said Tribe, who has advocated for delaying delivery of the articles.

Tribe warned that any efforts to bypass the 67-vote requirement would be “not just nuclear but thermonuclear. As long as there are any cloture rules at all, a simple majority cannot suffice to amend the Senate’s standing rules. Without cloture rules, the Senate would cease to be the Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to say whether Hawley’s proposal will receive serious consideration, but two members of McConnell’s Republican leadership team, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, were among the 10 senators to co-sponsor Hawley’s proposal.

“Speaker Pelosi and her squad need to send over the articles so that we can get back to the people’s business. This resolution sets an important timetable that will allow us to do just that,” Ernst said in a statement.

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Ernst’s decison to sign onto Hawley’s proposal could put pressure on other members of GOP leadership, including Sen. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who serves as Senate Rules chairman.

Lauren Gepford, the executive director the Missouri Democratic Party, said Republican senators have made it clear they won’t serve as impartial jurors during a Senate trial. She questioned Hawley’s proposal to avoid a trial by dismissing impeachment.

“Perhaps Senator Hawley isn’t as confident in the President’s eventual acquittal as the rest of his party is,” Gepford said.

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