Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said Wednesday he has drafted a resolution to censure former President Donald Trump for his actions ahead of the January 6 deadly riot at the US Capitol, a method some think would be a faster way to hold Trump accountable than an impeachment trial.
“Having alternatives on the table is important,” Kaine told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Wednesday afternoon. “There has to be accountability for the actions of January 6 including accountability for the President who fomented this violent attack on the Capitol.” He added he was “contemplating an introduction next week” though he was continuing discussions with his fellow senators.
Kaine said he had been talking with “about” 40 of his colleagues for a few weeks about the “the likelihood that we would fall short on impeachment,” and use up time that could be used to pass a “dire” relief package. Moving on from impeachment would also allow the chamber to move through more Biden Cabinet confirmations.
Still, this effort by Kaine is a long shot, which other Democrats have publicly downplayed as a real possibility.
Kaine said there had been “some” interest in a censure motion, but noted that the House has now sent an article of impeachment to the Senate, so the chamber must act. After the vote on Tuesday in which all but five Republican senators joined Sen. Rand Paul in claiming that holding a trial for an ex-president is unconstitutional, Kaine said he thinks there’s “maybe a little more interest now” in looking at censure as an alternative way to hold Trump accountable.
Pressed further on his views that censure could be an “alternative” to a trial, Kaine said “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 right now.” At least 17 Republicans would have to join all 50 Democrats in order to convict Trump with the required two-thirds majority of the chamber, and Tuesday’s vote was the latest signal that the GOP caucus seemed largely unified against impeachment.
Moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin threw cold water on the proposal Wednesday, telling reporters, “This is much, much more serious than anything that we’ve ever seen in our lifetime and it’s really the purpose of having the articles of impeachment in the Constitution,” he said, adding, “it’s really a mechanism or tool, if you will to deter it.”
“We all want to make sure that no one ever does this again, never thinks about doing something like a seditious insurrection such as that,” said the West Virginia Democrat, one of the most moderate members of his caucus.
Kaine also cast doubt on the likelihood there would be a strong appetite for his own measure if the Senate fails to convict the former president, telling reporters, “I just don’t know that there’s going to be more appetite to talk about Donald John Trump after the trial.”
Kaine would not elaborate on how many of his Republican colleagues he’s been talking to and suggested that there wouldn’t be a point to moving forward with a censure if it wasn’t going to get adequate GOP support.
“If we could do something like this and have it be bipartisan, and thereby potentially avoid the trial, I think that would be beneficial but we’re not there yet,” he said.
GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who is working with Kaine on the resolution, said she thinks it’s beneficial to look for another way to condemn Trump’s actions “with regard to the riot and the pressure that he put on state officials” that “might” be able to garner bipartisan support — as Trump’s conviction is “extremely unlikely.”
Collins noted, however, she isn’t sure whether there would be bipartisan support.
Asked if the resolution, which is still “in process,” is something she would want to bring to the floor before the trial or after, she replied, “No, it would be in lieu of the trial.”
She continued, “In other words, if the outcome of the trial is already obvious — which I believe yesterday’s vote shows clearly, that there is no possibility of conviction if you have that many, 45 Republicans believing that the trial itself is unconstitutional, then the question is, another way to express condemnation of the president’s activities with regard to the riot and the pressure that he put on state officials.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated strongly in a floor speech today that “there will be a trial.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune told reporters Wednesday that the censure proposal is “so hypothetical at this point.”
“The Democrats are very intent on going through the impeachment process,” said Thune, a Republican from South Dakota. “That’s the vote that matters to them. I’ve heard some rumblings (about censure) but not serious discussion that had support from enough Democrats or Republicans for that matter to make this a realistic option.”
Thune also said again he believed the senators who voted with Paul on Tuesday are likely to vote to acquit too.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont avoided offering a direct opinion on the censure matter, claiming they were focused on other issues for now.
“Right now, what I’m focused on is doing the work that we’re scheduled to do,” Wyden told reporters. “We’ll be starting that shortly. And I said quite some time ago that the key to unity is accountability. I still feel that way.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.