As the House of Representatives moves to impeach Trump this week, a significant portion of his legacy and future rests on Senate Republicans. Even when the Senate is in control of Democrats after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, Senate Republicans will be the deciding factor in whether Trump gets convicted and can ever run for office again. Here are the three main factions they’re falling into so far on impeachment.
The handful of GOP senators who seem maybe kinda open to impeachment
This is by far the smallest bloc. A Democratic-controlled Senate would need 17 Republicans to join them in convicting the president.
Two have said they want the president to resign, which suggests they could be open to impeachment, although they have some hesitations. A third has said he’s open to considering the article of impeachment that the House sends over. And another wants to hold the president accountable somehow. Here they are and what they’ve said:
Ben Sasse of Nebraska: “I will definitely consider whatever articles they might move because, as I’ve told you, I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office,” he said, speaking of House Democrats’ effort to impeach Trump. He is the first and so far only GOP senator to be unequivocally open to convicting the president. Sasse, a sometime Trump critic who strongly denounced the president’s baseless post-election claims, just won another six-year term.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: “I want him out. I want him to resign. He has caused enough damage,” Murkowski said in the days after the invasion. She is up for reelection next year, but Murkowski has more electoral flexibility than other Republican senators because her state recently approved new voting rules that minimize the impact of a primary challenge from the right.
Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania: “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” he said, calling on he president to resign. But he also expressed hesitation that impeachment was the right move with just a few days to go in Trump’s presidency. Toomey is retiring.
Mitt Romney (Utah) was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump during his last impeachment trial, over the president’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, but it’s not clear what he would do if faced with another impeachment vote. Romney issued a short statement Monday to the Salt Lake Tribune that didn’t mention impeachment but suggested he wanted to hold Trump accountable somehow: “When the president incites an attack against Congress, there must be a meaningful consequence. We will be considering those options and the best course for our nation in the days ahead.”
The senators who say impeachment is a bad idea
You could arguably put Toomey in this camp, who has said: “I don’t know whether, logistically, it’s actually really even possible or practical, and I’m not sure it’s desirable to attempt to force him out, what a day or two or three prior to the day on which he’s going to be finished anyway.”
Same with Romney. He has also expressed hesitation over impeachment, telling reporters hours after the invasion he didn’t think it was realistic: “I think we’ve got to hold our breath for the next 20 days.”
And one of Trump’s biggest Capitol Hill allies echoed what Trump’s House Republican supporters have been arguing, that impeachment is too divisive to undertake. “I think letting the president stew in his own juices is probably the right way to go here,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told The Washington Post after meeting with Trump for four hours. “Impeachment is going to reignite the problem, and we’ve got nine days to go here. It will do more harm than good, and I’m hoping that people on our side will see it that way.”
The silent crowd
This is pretty much everyone else. It includes the most important Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who has gone silent, even to Trump. My Post colleagues report that McConnell has ignored the president’s phone calls before and after the siege of the Capitol.
But the New York Times reports that, on the eve of House Democrats’ impeachment vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said privately he’s pleased Democrats are moving forward with impeachment and that he thinks it will help purge Trump from the party. The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker have reported McConnell is furious with Trump but that he doesn’t plan to try to convince Senate Republicans to vote one way or the other on impeachment.
McConnell has expressed none of this publicly.
If he wanted to, he could bring the Senate back in session for a trial before Democrats take power on Jan. 20. But he hasn’t, and it remains to be seen if a proposed effort by the incoming Senate majority leader, Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), to force the Senate back under McConnell’s leadership would work.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a potential 2024 presidential contender, put out a four-minute video asking how the nation’s political dynamics led to the siege, but he didn’t address Trump’s role, writes The Fix’s Aaron Blake.
The silence of Senate Republicans underscores that for all their frustration with the president, many still aren’t willing to completely break with him. And it’s fair to ask: If this doesn’t do it, what would?
This has been updated with the latest news.