The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, said on Tuesday that the party organization would reschedule next week’s presidential primary debate in Iowa if the televised event conflicts with President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
“Democrats and our senators can walk and chew gum,” Perez told MSNBC. “Obviously, if there’s a trial on the 14th, then we’ll move the debate. If there’s not, then we’re going to have the debate. At the moment, all systems are go, and so we’re going to move forward.”
Of the five White House candidates to have qualified thus far for the debate next Tuesday at Drake University in Des Moines, co-hosted by CNN and The Des Moines Register, three are senators: Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Also slated to participate are former Vice President Joe Biden and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.
The potential for a forthcoming impeachment trial has complicated the plans of the Democratic senators competing for their party’s presidential nomination, who will act as Trump’s jurors and therefore be sidelined from their campaigns during the proceedings less than a month before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
But the pack of Democratic candidates vying to challenge the president in November “are very agile, just as the American people are agile,” Perez said Tuesday.
“You know, families across this country walk and chew gum every day,” he continued. “They take care of their kids. They feed the family. They pay the bills. And they want to make sure that their Congress is doing the same thing, and our candidates will do the same thing.”
The remarks from the party chairman break with a less definitive statement from Xochitl Hinojosa, the DNC’s communications director, who previously said that if “a conflict with an impeachment trial is unavoidable, the DNC will evaluate its options and work with all the candidates to accommodate them.”
The DNC had declined to comment when asked whether the qualification deadline on Friday would also be pushed back if the debate was postponed due to the trial.
Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to transmit across the Capitol the articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has secured sufficient support from his GOP caucus to approve a framework of rules governing a trial in the chamber.
House Democrats had withheld the impeachment articles in an attempt to achieve leverage in Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s negotiations with McConnell over the trial’s rules, and because of concerns about bias toward the White House from Senate Republicans.