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Jan. 25, 2020, 8:54 a.m. EST

What the Republican senators considered the most moderate are saying about calling witnesses at Trump’s impeachment trial

The stakes around the impeachment process are ‘low for markets, high for senators,’ analyst says

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By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch


MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images
As President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial continues, Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander are in the spotlight.

Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are getting attention as an important step in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial nears.

The Senate looks set to vote next week on whether to subpoena new witnesses or documents, with that action slated to come after Trump’s lawyers and House managers finish their opening arguments — as well as after senators get up to 16 hours to ask questions.

There could be a 51-49 vote in favor of calling witnesses if the four GOP lawmakers back that approach and all 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats also support it.

Here’s what the four Republican senators, often viewed as moderates, have said so far on the issue:

  • Sen. Susan Collins , who is in a closely watched re-election race, said the following in a statement Tuesday : “As I said last week, while I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I anticipate that I would conclude that having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that point in the trial, just as I did in 1999.”

  • Sen. Mitt Romney , who has criticized Trump in the past, had this to say on Jan. 13: “I’ve said I’d like to hear from John Bolton. I expect that, barring some kind of surprise, I’ll be voting in favor of hearing from witnesses after those opening arguments.”

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been cagey on the issue. According to an Alaska Public Media report , she told reporters in Anchorage on Jan. 18 that, while at the trial’s start she would be voting with her party against amendments demanding witnesses, no one should assume she will oppose calling witnesses later.

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander , who plans to retire after his current term ends this year, has been coy in recent interviews and said “maybe” he will vote for witnesses but “maybe not,” according to a Politico report on Thursday. He is unlikely to be the 51st vote for witnesses, but rather, if he’s feeling the need for witnesses, other Republicans would join him and scramble plans on how to handle new testimony in the trial, the report added.

Beyond these four lawmakers, Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona are also among the Republicans talked about at various times in recent weeks as possible swing voters in the impeachment trial, though McSally lashed out at a CNN reporter who asked for her view on the calling of new witnesses, labeling him a “liberal hack” and then promoting the testy exchange on her Twitter account and on a campaign-fundraiser T-shirt.

Related: GOP senators reportedly told their heads ‘will be on a pike’ if they vote against Trump

Also read: Complete MarketWatch coverage of Trump’s impeachment

Even if the Senate votes for witnesses and documents, that’s widely expected only to prolong the trial, rather than lead to Trump’s ouster. That helps explain why the stock market /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.40%   /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.47% hasn’t reacted much to impeachment-related developments.

The stakes around the impeachment process are “low for markets, high for senators,” said Charles Gabriel of Capital Alpha Partners in a recent note.

Related: Why investors are so calm about impeachment — and what it would take for that to change

And see: For the stock market, impeachment is just a sideshow

A two-thirds majority of the Senate — or 67 senators — must vote to convict the president to remove him from office. And even on the issue of witnesses, two Republican senators who spoke to the Hill on condition of anonymity said they don’t see the required 51 votes.

Now read: Trump bemoans ‘Death Valley’ TV time slot for his defense team

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Victor Reklaitis is MarketWatch's Money & Politics reporter and is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @VicRek.

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