(Bloomberg) -- Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle warned his party against impeaching President Donald Trump for inciting the mob attack on the Capitol, arguing that even a delayed Senate trial risks impeding urgent action President-elect Joe Biden must take to bolster the economy and combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
Daschle, who led Senate Democrats the last time the chamber was evenly divided, was joined by Trent Lott, who led Senate Republicans at the time, in urging Congress instead to formally censure the president. The two men were also their parties’ Senate leaders during President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.
Daschle called impeachment at a moment that party control of the Senate is so tenuous a “mistake,” saying it would first “galvanize” Trump’s supporters and then delay work on crucial issues. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has favored proceeding, even with the coming 50-50 split in the chamber.
“An impeachment mechanism is just not the right course at all if they want to hold the president accountable,” Daschle said at a forum Monday with Lott held by the Bipartsian Policy Center.
Dasche said a censure vote is “the most appropriate approach,” adding that “it’s definitive, it’s final, it doesn’t send the whole matter to the Senate and require another trial.”
The former leaders addressed the issue in a discussion on lessons they drew from overseeing an evenly divided Senate. Both said an impeachment trial would disrupt talks needed to set up a power sharing agreement and work arrangements and would delay Biden’s agenda. Lott and Daschle negotiated such a deal in 2001, when the two sides similarly controlled 50 seats each.
Daschle said there is no guarantee Biden can accomplish key legislative goals without some cooperation between Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, given ongoing polarization between the parties.
“Give Mitch McConnell reasons to be a partner, reasons to be cooperative,” Daschle said. “Do that, I guarantee you, you’re going to accomplish twice, three, four times as much as you will otherwise.”
Daschle said it’s possible to find 60 votes to pass an ambitious infrastructure package and another economy recovery plan. “There’s probably 60 votes if we do Covid right again,” he added, referring to the threshold needed in the Senate for most legislation to cut off debate and proceed with voting.
While more difficult, Daschle said deals also are possible on immigration and climate change measures, including an infrastructure package that deals with environmental issues. Both Daschle and Lott argued for resuming the past practice of adding “earmark” funding for individual lawmakers’ favored projects in order to give them a stake in legislation they might otherwise oppose.
The practice was discontinued following bribery and ethics scandals in the early 2000s involving earmarks and criticism that the practice gave incentives for wasteful government spending.
“We need to bring that back in a responsible way,” Lott said.
Both Daschle and Lott are now part of Washington’s influence industry, providing strategic advice to clients.