Democratic Senator Says Censuring Trump May Be Better Than Trial
(Bloomberg) -- Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said censuring former President Donald Trump may be better than going through an impeachment trial because it’s clear that most Republicans won’t vote to convict him.
Kaine said Trump won’t be punished through an impeachment trial so he’s consulting with other senators about a possible resolution censuring him for his role inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine says she is working with Kaine on the proposal.
“I have been talking with a number of my colleagues, a handful, for a couple of weeks about the likelihood that we would fall short on impeachment,” Kaine told reporters Wednesday. “And by doing that, not only will we fall short but we would use time for something that we could be using for Covid, which I think is just so dire right now.”
However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the chamber floor just after Kaine’s remarks that “there will be a trial.”
“We will vote, we will pass judgment,” Schumer said.
Top Republican leaders on Wednesday said it’s doubtful a censure resolution would get much GOP backing.
“If we’re going to every time the political party gets the majority in the House and Senate they decide to censure a previous officeholder, that cuts both ways,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a member of McConnell’s leadership team. “I don’t think that’s good for the country. I think we ought to encourage people to move on rather than live in the past.”
Separately, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Wednesday that he hasn’t decided how he’d vote in the impeachment trial, even though he voted with most Republicans to declare it unconstitutional. “The trial hasn’t started yet,” he said. “And I intend to participate in that and listen to the evidence.”
In a key test vote Tuesday, just five Republicans voted with Democrats against an attempt by GOP Senator Rand Paul to declare the proceedings unconstitutional because Trump is now a private citizen. Paul’s move failed 55-45.
That vote, Kaine said, showed that there won’t be enough Senate Republicans to convict Trump at the trial’s end, which could allow the chamber to then vote to bar him from ever seeking office again. It would take a two-thirds majority to convict Trump.
“The vote on the Paul motion yesterday was completely clarifying that we’re not going to get near 67,” Kaine said. “So, I think there’s maybe a little more interest now and then could this be an alternative.”
Kaine said a censure resolution, which he hasn’t formally been proposed yet, would be a better route than continuing with a trial that threatens to crowd out President Joe Biden’s agenda, including another pandemic-relief package.
“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,” he said. “Obviously we do a trial, maybe we can do it fast but my top priority is Covid relief and getting the Biden cabinet approved.”
Collins said she’s not sure the censure measure could get bipartisan support. But she said she agrees with Kaine that a trial would be fruitless given the vote on Tuesday.
“I think yesterday’s vote on the Senate floor shows it is extremely unlikely that President Trump would be convicted and that indeed the five votes to even proceed to a trial is probably that high mark on what you’re going to see for Republican support,” she told reporters. “So it seems to me that there is some value in looking at an alternative to proceeding with the trial.”
However it’s unclear whether a trial can be short-circuited now that the House has transmitted the article of impeachment to the Senate.
“My understanding is that once the article comes over here we’re sort of on auto pilot for the trial,” Cornyn said. “So I’m not sure that’s an option anymore.”
A group of House Republicans previously introduced their own censure resolution, indicating such a measure would likely get bipartisan support.
Tuesday’s vote on Paul’s point of order to declare the trial proceedings unconstitutional came shortly after all 100 senators were sworn in as jurors for the trial.
In addition to Collins, the Republican senators voting with Democrats were Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
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