Burr, Tillis To Vote Against More Impeachment Witnesses

Jan 31, 2020

The battle over whether to call for additional witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial is expected to come to a head today with all indications rank-and-file GOP senators – excluding, perhaps, Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – will stick with their party and vote no.

Four Republicans would need to join all Democrats for the simple majority needed to approve the appearance of witnesses such as ex-Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Politically, North Carolina's two U.S. senators view this question – and the ultimate issue of removal – from very different vantage points. And yet, they have arrived at the same conclusion.

Sen. Richard Burr is a third-term senator and intelligence committee chair who has earned some respect for the way he has cooperated with the committee's ranking Democrat. And Burr has said he's not running for re-election at the end of his term, in 2022.

Tillis, however, is a first-term senator running for re-election in a 2020 battleground state and has pinned his political fate on a close alignment with the president.

"He's taking a position that, perhaps a year ago, would have been a bit surprising," said East Carolina University Political Science Professor Tom Eamon.

Tillis had been poised to part with the president over funding for a southern border wall. Last March, Tillis very publicly flipped on the issue and fell in line with Trump.

Eamon said Tillis could still find himself inching away from Trump if the eventual Democratic presidential nominee is a moderate like Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden versus a progressive like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

But for now, Tillis is a hundred percent behind the president. Earlier this week on Pat McCrory's WBT talk radio program, Tillis scoffed at the idea of calling for witnesses like ex-Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton at the impeachment trial.

"To hear witnesses would suggest that you've heard a pretty solid case and you need to button it up to make a decision to remove the president. I don't believe that any Republican member right now is of the mind to remove the president," Tillis said.

Unlike Tillis, Richard Burr does not have to worry about re-election but like the junior senator, Burr told McCrory there's no need for witnesses.

"If it doesn't rise to the level of removal from office then why would we put the American people, the institution, through this process when we know what the outcome's going to be at the end of the day," Burr said on the radio show.

"If you go against your party and you go against your president you're going to have a hard time passing any legislation going forward," said Chris Cooper, who chairs the political science department at Western Carolina University, noting that Burr has a few more years to serve in the senate.

Cooper said Burr's most noteworthy contribution to the impeachment process was fidget spinners. Burr handed out the toys to GOP colleagues to get them through bouts of boredom during the proceedings.