With Tuesday’s vote in the Senate, in which all but five Republican senators objected against proceeding with Donald Trump’s impeachment, concerns over a lengthy trial dominating President Biden’s first weeks in office now appear less warranted.
The trial, which for now will still go forward after the Senate overall voted 55-45 to proceed, is set to begin the week of Feb. 8. But even with the backing of the majority of GOP senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—who said that Trump provoked the Capitol riots on Jan. 6—Democrats will have to evaluate whether a conviction is still worth pursuing.
On Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters that he was looking into a bipartisan resolution censuring Trump without resorting to impeachment in order to focus Senate priorities surrounding a COVID-19 response and confirming Biden’s cabinet.
“I’ve drafted something, I haven’t filed it yet,” Kaine said. “It could be an alternative. To do a trial knowing you’ll get 55 votes at the max seems to me to be not the right prioritization of our time.”
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the five GOP Senators who did vote against the Republican objection against impeachment, is said to be working with Kaine to pitch the resolution to her colleagues, according to Axios.
“I think it’s pretty obvious from the vote today, that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the President will be convicted,” Collins told reporters Tuesday. “Just do the math.”
It’s unclear where Republicans stand on the potential censure, but some GOP senators have made clear their hopes that the apparent lack of votes to convict Trump will sway Democrats from pursuing a trial. A conviction, which would prevent Trump from holding office in the future, would require 67 members of the 100-member Senate to vote in favor. At least 17 Republicans would need to join their Democratic colleagues, assuming every Democrat voted to convict.
“The vote on the Paul motion . . . was completely clarifying that we’re not going to get near 67,” Kaine said Wednesday. “So I think there’s maybe a little more interest now” in pursuing alternatives, like the bipartisan censure.
“I hope my colleagues to look at it from the standpoint: Is it wise to do this?” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Tuesday. “I would hope we would end this now. It’s just not wise. It’s not healing. It’s divisive.”
Still, the Democrats’ top leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, said he intends to proceed with Trump’s trial for “incitement of insurrection.” A team of nine House impeachment managers are preparing arguments for Jan. 9, according to the Washington Post, focusing specifically on how Trump’s remarks bolstered the rioters’ enthusiasm to attack the Capitol.
“Make no mistake, there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former President will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again.” Schumer said Wednesday. “We will all watch what happened. We will listen to what happened, and then we will vote. We will pass judgment as our solemn duty under the Constitution demands. And in turn, we will all be judged on how we respond.”
In the view of some Democrats, a significant reason to continue the trial is to formally hold Trump accountable for his actions, even if the chances are likely he’ll be acquitted.
“It’s hard to get over it if you lived it, and many of us in this chamber did,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip, said Wednesday. “We should go forward, as Lincoln reminded us, because we cannot escape history, and we certainly shouldn’t be party to rewriting history. We need to make a record—a record of fact, not just for our current deliberations, but for history.”
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