The dean of the U.S. Senate Thursday called on his colleagues to serve as the "conscience of the country," and to put the Constitution ahead of politics when it comes to the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
"I take a solemn oath to uphold the law and follow my conscience," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. "Otherwise, why be in the Senate?"
Leahy described the mood in the Senate as "more worried than acrimonious" regarding the pending trial for President Trump, once the U.S. House sends over articles of impeachment.
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That process is on pause, because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has delayed sending the articles out of concern the impeachment trial in the GOP-controlled Senate may not be fair.
Pledges from Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to coordinate with the White House on the trial have drawn criticism from Democrats, including Leahy.
"I am not an impartial juror," McConnell said on De. 17 of the impeachment trial, describing how he sees it as a partisan political event, rather than a judicial process. "I'm not impartial about this at all."
Those remarks, and subsequent ones, bothered Leahy, who was a Senate juror in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago.
"Democrats or Republicans did not coordinate with the White House," Leahy recalled. "Bill Clinton was a friend of mine, but I was not about to call him up and say, 'What do I do now?'"
The nation's longest-serving senator praised Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who said she was "disturbed" by McConnell's signals that he will work with the White House in the Senate trial of President Trump.
"If it means that I am viewed as one who looks openly and critically at every issue in front of me, rather than acting as a rubber stamp for my president or my party, I'm totally good with that,” Murkowski said. “I'm totally good with that.”
Leahy urged more colleagues to approach the issue as Murkowski has, and put the country and Constitution above politics.
"The Senate is supposed to be the conscience of the nation," Leahy said. "There's only 100 of us. We represent 325 million people. That is a remarkable obligation."
Meanwhile, in a tweet Thursday, President Trump blasted who he called the "Do Nothing Democrats," and labeled his impeachment as a "scam."
Aside from all the talk in Washington of impeachment, Leahy said Thursday he's proud to have worked to restore funding in the federal budget for a series of programs slated for cuts or elimination.
Those funding priorities including heating assistance for low-income Americans, which Leahy called a “vital lifeline” in chilly New England.