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Democrats Ponder Censuring Trump as Impeachment Odds Wane

Senator Tim Kaine (D., Va.) speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 27, 2021. (Michael Reynolds/Reuters)

Senator Tim Kaine said Wednesday that he is discussing with fellow Democrats the possibility of censuring former President Trump over his role in the deadly Capitol riot as an alternative to an impeachment trial.

“Having alternatives on the table is important,” Kaine told CNN. “There has to be accountability for the actions of January 6 including accountability for the President who fomented this violent attack on the Capitol.”

Kaine said he has drafted a censure resolution and may introduce the measure as soon as next week.

Meanwhile, Democrats are considering an impeachment trial as short as one week after Senate Republicans indicated that they are unlikely to join Democrats and vote to convict Trump.

On Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) forced a point of order vote on holding an impeachment trial, arguing the Senate should not take up the House’s single impeachment article against Trump because he has already left office. The motion failed in a 55-45 vote, but only five Republicans defected.

In order for Trump to be convicted, two-thirds of the Senate or 67 senators must vote in favor of impeachment, meaning 17 Republican senators still need to be swayed. Some of the senate Republicans who voted against the trial said they will take into account the evidence presented by House impeachment managers, but Democrats are still expected to fall short of the votes needed to convict.

“If you voted that it was unconstitutional, how in the world would you ever vote to convict somebody for this?” Paul told reporters after the vote. “This vote indicates it’s over. The trial is all over.”

Kaine suggested that going through a trial knowing it will fail uses up precious time that could be used to further the Biden administration’s goals, such as confirming Cabinet nominees and passing a coronavirus relief bill.

“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,” Kaine said.

Some Senate Democrats are already publicly shooting down the possibility of opting for a censure instead of an impeachment trial.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia emphasized that Trump’s rhetoric before and during the riot at the Capitol was serious enough to warrant impeachment, not simply a censure.

“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,” Manchin said. “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.”

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