In a key test vote ahead of the impeachment trial in the US Senate, all but five Republican senators on Tuesday voted in favor of deeming the proceedings unconstitutional, raising concerns that Trump will avoid a conviction in the chamber.
Although the Senate impeachment conviction trial is not due to start for another two weeks, Senate Republicans were sworn in on Tuesday for the looming proceedings. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) immediately called for a vote to declare the February 9 trial unconstitutional.
By the end of the call, the motion gained a vote of 55 in favor and 45 against. The five GOP lawmakers who voted to table Paul’s argument included Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R- AK) and Pat Toomey (R- PA).
Shortly before the Tuesday vote, Paul voiced his intention to get at least 34 Republicans to vote with him on a motion to prove the trial is “dead on arrival.”
To date, the vote is the clearest sign that Trump is likely to be acquitted, as Republican lawmakers line up to argue that the impeachment conviction trial is unconstitutional on the grounds that Trump is no longer in office.
In order to convict Trump, a total of 67 lawmakers from the upper congressional chamber would need to vote in favor of the impeachment.
While many Republican lawmakers criticized Trump's instigation of the deadly January 6 Capitol riot that saw five killed, including a police officer, others have rushed to question the validity of the trial or whether the former commander-in-chief’s remarks on the US election constituted "incitement of insurrection". Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) questioned whether trials could be held against former officials.
Ahead of the vote, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) acknowledged in a statement that Trump “exhibited poor leadership and holds some responsibility for the anarchy that ensued at the heart of our democracy,” before stating that holding a trial against him may prompt issues moving forward.
“Congress would be opening itself to a dangerous standard of using impeachment as a tool for political revenge against a private citizen, and the only remedy at this point is to strip the convicted of their ability to run for future office – a move that would undoubtedly strip millions of voters of their ability to choose a candidate in the next election,” she suggested.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) indicated that should the chamber fail to carry out the trial, it would ultimately amount to a “get out of jail free card” for others accused of wrongdoing as they exit a government post.
Should Trump be convicted in a majority vote, it would bar him from ever again holding any official post. The upcoming trial marks the first time that an ex-president undergoes an impeachment after departing from the Oval Office.