The Senate tabled an effort by Sen. Rand Paul Tuesday to force a vote on the constitutionality of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, but the vote offered an indicator for how Republican senators — who overwhelmingly voted for Paul’s measure — feel about the trial.
Paul’s motion was killed on a 55-45 vote, with five Republicans joining all Democrats, meaning 45 Republicans voted for Paul’s effort. Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania crossed party lines to vote with Democrats.
In order to convict Trump at his trial, at least 17 Republicans will need to vote with all Democrats when the trial begins next month. Significantly, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell sided with Paul in the vote — a potential indicator that he agrees the constitutionality of impeaching a former President is in question.
Paul, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters earlier in the day, “I think there will be enough (votes) to show that more than a third of the Senate thinks that the whole proceeding is unconstitutional, which will show that ultimately they don’t have the votes to do an impeachment.”
The Democratic-led House has already voted to impeach Trump, charging him with incitement of insurrection for the attack on the Capitol that left multiple people dead. But two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict Trump after a trial, an extremely high bar to clear.
The Senate vote on Tuesday effectively put senators on record as to whether they believe a trial of a former President is constitutional. Given the limited language in the Constitution on impeachment, legal experts disagree about whether the Senate can convict a former president. But Democrats have pointed to legal scholars on both ends of the political spectrum who say a trial is constitutional.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said earlier on Tuesday of the possibility Paul could force the vote, “he has a wealth of very unusual ideas.”
Paul said in a floor speech ahead of the vote, “I want this body on record, every last person here: Is this how you think politics should be?”
“Democrats insist on applying a test of incitement to a Republican that they refuse to apply to themselves,” he said. “I want Democrats to raise their hands if they have ever given a speech that says ‘take back,’ ‘fight for your country,’ who hasn’t used the words fight figuratively?”
He went on to say, “Are we going to put every politician in jail — are we going to impeach every politician who has used the words fight figuratively in a speech? Shame!”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.