Instead, the GOP is retreating to a tried-and-true playbook: Accusing Democrats of overreaching and dividing the country with a second push for Trump’s impeachment.
Shortly before convening a conference call of House Republicans on Monday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent a missive asserting that “an impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together when we need to get America back on a path towards unity and civility.”
He floated several other options, including a censure resolution, a bipartisan investigative commission, changes to the law governing the counting of electoral votes, and legislation to “promote voter confidence” in elections.
Nowhere did he mention specific consequences for Trump or any other Republican. Later, on the call, he said Trump agreed that he bore some responsibility for Wednesday’s riot, according to two Republicans who heard his remarks and spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay a private discussion.
Other key Republicans stuck to similar positions Monday, with Democrats threatening to move forward within days with an unprecedented second impeachment of the same president.
“After the abhorrent violence we saw last week, our country desperately needs to heal and unify,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “I have concerns that impeachment proceedings will only divide us further.”
Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the chairman of the House GOP campaign committee, said impeachment proceedings would “fracture our nation even more instead of bringing us together.”
Some rank-and-file Republicans have discussed censuring Trump and the lawmakers who spread false claims about election fraud — including some who promoted “Stop the steal” and other slogans embraced by the rioters. Some are exploring the more serious step of perhaps barring Trump and others from future office under a little-known clause of the 14th Amendment, according to GOP aides.
Still, no particular effort has emerged as a consensus alternative to impeachment — infuriating Democrats who watched McCarthy and other GOP leaders tolerate Trump’s persistent efforts to undermine and overturn Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 victory.
“The people who have helped cause this are not the people who can lead in healing. They need to move out of the way,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) in a Monday CNN interview. “To try to overturn a legitimate election, to try to trample on the will of the American people, is something that is unforgivable.”
Monday started with more silence from the House GOP leadership, who sent four rank-and-file lawmakers to the floor to block a Democratic request to unanimously approve a measure calling on Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump under the authority of the 25th Amendment.
The group uttered just two words — “I object,” Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) said — and then scurried away from the House floor unwilling to explain their position.
Mooney exited the floor and took several back stairways to avoid reporters. Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), who was sworn in eight days ago to her first term, ducked into an elevator without answering any questions. And Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a proud Trump supporter who led the effort to overturn Trump’s defeat in his home state, declined to say what next steps Republicans would take.
Mooney later put out a statement opposing the 25th Amendment measure on procedural grounds, calling it a “precedent-setting resolution that could imperil our Republic.”
But there are signs that Republicans will not be able to ride out the post-riot firestorm by arguing about process and civility rather than contending with their own culpability in stoking the mob. For one, many GOP lawmakers are openly calling for a reckoning — and a handful are entertaining a vote for impeachment this week.
“It’s something we’re strongly considering at this point,” said freshman Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), in an interview with WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids. “What we saw on Wednesday left the president unfit for office.”
For another, a rising tide of corporate donors are declaring that lawmakers who voted to support challenges to the electoral college are, at least for the time being, persona non grata.
Several major banks and blue-chip corporations announced in recent days that they are pausing their donations in some manner due to Wednesday’s events. Dow, the multinational chemical company, said Monday that it would immediately suspend contributions to any of the 147 lawmakers — all Republicans — who voted to object to the certification of electoral votes.
“Dow is committed to the principles of democracy and the peaceful transfer of power,” the company’s statement said.
Speaking on the House floor after the riot, McCarthy denounced the violence. He then voted to reject 31 electoral votes for Biden, representing ballots cast by more than 10 million Americans.
In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s riot, McCarthy brushed off concerns about the electoral college count. He joined his name to a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Supreme Court in a case that challenged the electoral votes cast by four states. The court dismissed the case in a three-sentence ruling on Dec. 11, but McCarthy and other Republicans continued to publicly support Trump’s crusade to question the election.
David Wasserman, the House editor of the Cook Political Report, said publicly in recent days that McCarthy did so over his personal conviction that Joe Biden had won the November election fairly. Wasserman relayed, in a recent series of tweets, details from private conversations he’d had with McCarthy.
“A few weeks after the election,” Wasserman wrote on Wednesday, “McCarthy acknowledged Trump’s clear loss to me and I asked him if the president’s refusal to concede would lead the country down a dangerous road. His response: ‘Maybe.’ ”
The next day, Wasserman wrote that McCarthy had acknowledged “multiple times to me there was no doubt as to Biden’s victory.”
Wasserman on Monday declined to further discuss his conversations with McCarthy. A spokeswoman for McCarthy did not reply to a question Monday about Wasserman’s allegations.
In the Senate, the crisis has been less acute — thanks, in part, to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s effort to rally his ranks against Trump’s effort. McConnell emphatically rejected Trump on the Senate floor, declaring that “our democracy would enter a death spiral” should valid elections be challenged in Congress without evidence.
Yet nine Republican senators voted after the riot to reject at least some electoral votes — including Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the incoming chairman of the Senate Republican campaign arm.
Scott defended his vote in a Sunday interview with The Washington Post, raising concerns about changes to Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting rules that were ultimately dismissed by both the state and federal supreme courts. “I want to get these election laws fixed,” he said.
Two GOP senators — Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania — have expressed openness to hearing an impeachment case. Unlike McCarthy, McConnell has not yet spoken out on the merits of impeaching Trump.
Individual Republican lawmakers are also facing backlash for their support of Trump’s sweeping voter fraud claims. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), in particular, have faced withering hometown editorials and alienated key backers.
Chad Sweet, a veteran Republican consultant and fundraiser, denounced both senators in an online posting Friday. He said he had warned Cruz, whose presidential campaign Sweet chaired, in advance of the electoral vote count that he would lose Sweet’s support if he proceeded.
“In moments like this, all freedom loving Americans must put the survival of our democracy above loyalty to any party or individual,” Sweet wrote.
Josh Dawsey and James Hohmann contributed to this report.