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Senate Votes to Proceed with Trump Impeachment Trial

The Senate votes on the rules to govern the trial as it begins the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on the floor of the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2021. (U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters)

The Senate voted  56-44 largely along party lines to declare the impeachment trial of former President Trump constitutional, formally allowing the trial to proceed.

Six Republicans voted with Democrats to approve the constitutionality of the trial: Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Supporters of the former president have argued that it is unconstitutional for the Senate to put Trump on trial now that he is out of office. Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) introduced a point-of-order resolution on January 26 aiming to preemptively declare the trial unconstitutional, but the motion was immediately tabled by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).

All but five Republican senators opposed Schumer’s move, indicating broad willingness in the GOP caucus to consider the trial unconstitutional. Those five senators also voted to proceed with the trial, with the addition of Cassidy.

Cassidy criticized Trump’s legal team after the Tuesday vote, saying the team was “disorganized, they did everything they could but to talk about the question at hand.”

However, most Republicans did not change their minds regarding the constitutionality of the trial.

“I think the constitutional defects of this—both in the House and the Senate—are overwhelming,” Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) told CNN before the opening arguments. “You don’t have to be Judge Judy to see the constitutional defects.” Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Roger Wicker of Mississippi also indicated that they considered the trial unconstitutional.

Even in January, Republicans were skeptical about the prospects for impeachment.

“I think a lot of Americans are going to think it’s strange that the Senate is spending its time trying to convict and remove from office a man who left office a week ago,” Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) told the Associated Press at the time.

According to the trial framework agreed upon by Senators Schumer and McConnell, the Senate will now proceed to hear opening arguments from the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team. Each side will be given 16 hours, with up to 8 hours per day, to make their cases, meaning opening arguments will be heard over a period of four days.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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