The Senate rejected an effort to sideline the pending impeachment trial of Donald Trump, but in an early gauge of support for convicting the former president, just five Republicans joined with Democrats to move forward.
In a 55-45 vote, the Senate tabled a procedural motion by Sen. Rand Paul to declare a trial unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. That is far short of the 67 votes needed to convict Trump.
The trial is scheduled to start the week of Feb. 8, but Republicans increasingly have been backing away from the idea of convicting Trump, who still holds enormous sway in the party. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has suggested that he may vote to convict, backed Paul’s motion.
When the House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, ten Republicans joined with Democrats to pass one article of impeachment against him, on charges that he incited the attack on the Capitol earlier this month.
The five Republicans who voted with Democrats on Tuesday were Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). They joined with the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two independents.
Paul’s constitutional argument would provide a convenient off-ramp for Republicans to vote against Trump’s conviction without having to get at the merits of the case or even stir up the former president’s base of supporters.
Senators on Tuesday also were sworn in as jurors in the impeachment trial.
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