The vast majority of Senate Republicans voted to back Donald Trump Tuesday, signaling their belief the former president’s impeachment trial was unconstitutional and all but guaranteeing the Senate will not have enough votes to convict in the upcoming trial.
From the Associated Press:
While the Republicans did not succeed in ending the trial before it began, the test vote made clear that Trump still has enormous sway over his party as he becomes the first former president to be tried for impeachment. Many Republicans have criticized Trump’s role in the attack — before which he told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat — but most of them have rushed to defend him in the trial.
The procedural vote was forced by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who in a fiery floor speech called the impeachment trial a “sham” and demanded that every Senator go on record on whether or not to declare the trial unconstitutional.
While the motion failed 55-45, it showed mostly unified Republican support of Trump and made it appear unlikely Democrats had the necessary votes to convict him in a trial:
Conviction would require the support of all Democrats and 17 Republicans, or two-thirds of the Senate — far from the five Republicans who voted with Democrats Tuesday to allow the trial to proceed.
“I think this was indicative of where a lot of people’s heads are,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer argued that it “makes no sense” that lawmakers wouldn’t be able to impeach an office holder simply because he resigned or was about to leave office when the offense was committed.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that a president, or any official, could commit a heinous crime against our country and then defeat Congress’ impeachment powers — and avoid a vote on disqualification — by simply resigning, or by waiting to commit that offense until their last few weeks in office,” Schumer said.
Most of the Republican party disagreed, opting to side with Paul’s argument that you could not impeach a former office holder while Democrats were unified in rejecting Paul’s motion.
The five Republicans that sided with Democrats on the vote were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.