Forty-five Senate Republicans backed a failed effort on Tuesday to halt former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign he will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol, Reuters reports.
Republican Senator Rand Paul made a motion on the Senate floor that would have required the chamber to vote on whether Trump’s trial in February violates the U.S. Constitution.
The Democratic-led Senate blocked the motion in a 55-45 vote. But only five Republican lawmakers joined Democrats to reject the move, far short of the 17 Republicans who would need to vote to convict Trump on an impeachment charge that he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol assault that left five people dead.
“It’s one of the few times in Washington where a loss is actually a victory,” Paul later told reporters. “Forty-five votes means the impeachment trial is dead on arrival.”
Paul and other Republicans contend that the proceedings are unconstitutional because Trump left office last Wednesday and the trial will be overseen by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy instead of by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.
Leahy, 80, was briefly hospitalized on Tuesday evening after not feeling well but was released after an examination, his spokesman, David Carle, said in a statement.
Some Republican senators who backed Paul’s motion said their vote on Tuesday did not indicate how they might come down on Trump’s guilt or innocence after a trial.
“It’s a totally different issue as far as I’m concerned,” Republican Senator Rob Portman told reporters.
The senators voted after being sworn in as jurors for the impeachment trial.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who moved to thwart Paul’s motion, dismissed the Republican constitutional claim as “flat-out wrong” and said it would provide “a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card” for presidents guilty of misconduct.
There is a debate among scholars over whether the Senate can hold a trial for Trump now that he has left office. Many experts have said “late impeachment” is constitutional, arguing that presidents who engage in misconduct late in their terms should not be immune from the very process set out in the Constitution for holding them accountable.
The Constitution makes clear that impeachment proceedings can result in disqualification from holding office in the future, so there is still an active issue for the Senate to resolve, those scholars have said.