Washington — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted Wednesday that the Senate would push forward with an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, despite a procedural vote on Tuesday that indicated the Senate lacks the votes needed to convict the former president.
The Senate on Tuesday voted to table a point of order by Republican Senator Rand Paul to dismiss the trial on the ground that holding an impeachment trial against a president who is no longer in office is unconstitutional. Only five Republicans voted to table the motion, while 45 Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — voted in support of dismissing the trial. Since 67 votes are required to convict a president, it is highly unlikely that Mr. Trump will be convicted after the impeachment trial, which will begin on February 9.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Schumer called the vote by 45 Republicans to dismiss the trial "deeply irresponsible."
"Only five Republican senators were willing to take a principled stand against this reckless and ill-advised effort by members of this body who are eager to excuse President Trump's campaign to overturn the election and apparently to excuse his incitement of the mob that every one of us experienced in this Capitol," Schumer said. "I would simply say to all of my colleagues, make no mistake, there will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again."
The House impeached Mr. Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection on January 13, the week after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in a deadly assault seeking to overturn the election. Mr. Trump refused to concede the election for months, falsely claimed that the election was rigged and urged his supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn the election results just hours before the attack on the Capitol.
"No one will be able to avert their gaze from what Mr. Trump said and did and the consequences of his actions. We will all watch what happened. We will listen to what happened. And then we will vote. We will pass judgment as our solemn duty under the Constitution demands," Schumer continued.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Senator Susan Collins have pitched their colleagues on supporting a censure resolution against Mr. Trump.
"The vote on the Paul motion yesterday was completely clarifying that we're not going to get near 67 [votes]," Kaine told reporters on Wednesday. "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. Obviously we do a trial, maybe we can do it fast, but my top priority is COVID relief and getting the Biden cabinet approved."
Kaine said later on Wednesday in an interview with CNN that his censure resolution could be "in lieu of or after" the impeachment trial. Kaine said that the resolution would declare that the attack on the Capitol an "insurrection against the Constitution," and that Mr. Trump "gave aid and comfort to those who carried out the insurrection by repeatedly lying about the election, slandering election officials, pressuring others to come to Washington for a wild event and then encouraging them to come up to Congress."
"I'm contemplating an introduction next week, still talking to other senators about it, but I think it's important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives. If we can't get to 67 votes for impeachment there may be another way to hold President Trump accountable," Kaine said. He added that he would not file the resolution next week unless it was bipartisan.
Collins told reporters on Wednesday that she supported a vote to censure Mr. Trump "in lieu of" an impeachment trial.
"Senator Kaine and I have been working on a proposal for censure. It is still in process but I think yesterday's vote on the Senate floor shows that it is extremely unlikely that President Trump would be convicted, and that indeed the five votes to even proceed to a trial is probably the high mark on what you're going to see for Republican support," Collins said. "If the outcome of the trial is already obvious — which I believe yesterday's vote shows clearly...then the question is, is there another way to express condemnation of the president's activities with regard to the riot and the pressure that he put on state officials?"
Censuring the president may be able to get more support from Republicans, but it would not have any practical consequences. But many senators, including several Democrats, have acknowledged that the effort to convict Mr. Trump is unlikely to succeed.
"I'm not sure yesterday is a complete proxy vote for conviction. It's probably true that it's an uphill battle to get to 17 Republican votes," Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told reporters on Wednesday. Several Republicans who voted to dismiss the trial said their vote is not necessarily indicative of how they plan to vote on conviction.
Congress may also consider usingto bar Mr. Trump from holding office again.
That provision states that "no person shall be a senator or representative in Congress" or "hold any office, civil or military" if they, after having taken an oath to support the Constitution, "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." Legal scholars say Congress could establish a process for federal courts to adjudicate whether candidates are ineligible for office under Section 3.