A senior GOP senator told The Hill on Tuesday that McConnell said during a closed-door Senate Republican caucus lunch that he would begin talking with the Democratic leader this week.
“He said it at our lunch, and he said he thought he would have a starting date established by the time we leave” for the holiday recess, the senator said.
The Senate is expected to leave until January by Friday, though they could leave as soon as Thursday if they can get a deal to speed up consideration of 13 judicial nominees and two bills that will fund the government through the end of September.
McConnell, according to multiple GOP senators, told members during the lunch, which was also attended by Vice President Pence, that he thought he could at least get a deal with Schumer on the start date of the impeachment trial by Friday.
Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, added that senators needed at least a start date before leaving.
“The intention is, I think, to sit down and the most constructive way to do this is to try and get the two leaders to agree and at least put a schedule in place,” Thune said.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), asked about the start date of a trial, said that McConnell would be talking to Schumer and “I think we’ll know something before we leave.”
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), asked about the start date of trial, noted that it would be up to McConnell and Schumer to negotiate.
“We were told today that we’ll know that by Friday,” Perdue told The Hill after he left the caucus lunch.
McConnell and Schumer have both said they want to try to reach a bipartisan deal on the Senate trial procedure, though they’ve sidestepped saying when those talks will start.
McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference on Tuesday that they would start “soon.” A spokesman for Schumer said the GOP leader’s office had not yet reached out to set up an initial meeting.
The two appear to be at loggerheads over the specifics of a trial, including whether or not to call witnesses.
McConnell took to the Senate floor earlier Tuesday to shoot down the Democratic leader’s initial offer, which asked that the Senate call at least four witnesses including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
Schumer also wants the Senate to pass one resolution at the outset of the trial that would include both a deal on the procedure and a deal on specific witnesses.
During Clinton’s impeachment trial, senators voted 100-0 on a resolution laying out the process for a trial, but a vote on a subsequent resolution calling for specific witnesses broke down along party lines.
McConnell, on Tuesday, said he believed the Clinton framework was a “good idea.”
“The basic procedural framework of the Clinton impeachment trial served the Senate and the nation well, in my view,” McConnell said. “I still believe the Senate should try to follow the 1999 model.”
Schumer, in his offer, also outlined potential timeframes for both the House impeachment managers and Trump’s team to be able to make their case.
The senior GOP senator said he thought McConnell and Schumer could get a “pretty quick agreement” on how long each side should get to present their case.
— Updated at 4:12 p.m.