WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has long been a place of false gentility, where "my good friend" can be a euphemism for the opposite.
Now, as the Senate prepares to consider an impeachment trial, the acidic tribal politics in the era of Donald Trump is stripping away the veneer of comity from a chamber that's endured a lengthy slide already. The partisanship that was rank during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton seems almost quaint 21 years later in a time of declining civility and limited cooperation, with few legislative accomplishments to show for the Senate's three-and-a-half-day work weeks.
"I think impeachment inevitably makes things worse on both sides — and in the country," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. "I mean it's a very divisive time in our country, as you know, and this makes it worse. I go home and people — it's like shirts and skins." It falls to Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate's majority leader, and Democrat Chuck Schumer, the minority leader - two men who show little mutual admiration - to try to strike a deal that governs the proceedings and somehow doesn't diminish the institution.
Otherwise, there would be no framework for the length of the trial, rules regarding witnesses, or moves like an early motion to dismiss the charges. If Clinton's trial is a road- map, a six-day workweek, with no cell phones allowed in the chamber, could become an enforcement mechanism to keep the proceedings moving. The House is investigating Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate Democrats, which involved alleged back-channel diplomacy by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Public hearings are set to begin this month, with a vote on articles of impeachment possible by the end of the year.