Only five Republicans joined with all the Democratic senators Tuesday afternoon to vote that the Senate impeachment trial is constitutional and should proceed.
They were Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Sasse (R-NE).
All of the rest of the Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who was recently teasing a possible vote to convict during the trial, sided with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who declared the trial to be unconstitutional. The Democrats and five Republicans prevailed, killing the motion.
Murkowski told reporters that Paul’s decision to force the vote took members by “surprise” and that she wants to see the constitutional question brought before the full Senate.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who announced his retirement Monday and was amid the majority of Republicans who voted not to table Paul’s motion, told reporters that he has “not made his mind up” on how he’ll ultimately vote.
While the motion was just procedural and expected to fail, it throws cold water on hope that the ultimate Senate vote on whether or not to convict the former president will be significantly more bipartisan than President Donald Trump’s last impeachment. Romney was the sole Republican to vote to convict Trump last time.
It also makes the chances of Trump’s conviction seem very unlikely: 12 of those Republicans who voted that the trial is unconstitutional would have to change their minds to convict Trump and bar him from holding office ever again.
“Forty-five votes means the impeachment trial is dead on arrival,” Paul told reporters on his way out of the vote.
Collins too indicated that the procedural vote is an indication of a coming acquittal: “do the math,” she told reporters.
Paul took the floor earlier on Tuesday, delivering the pièce de résistance in false equivalency as he accused Democrats of actually being the ones to incite violence just weeks after a pro-Trump mob broke into and looted the Capitol.
Many of Paul’s colleagues have taken lower-key stances against the impeachment trial, in recent days coalescing behind the argument that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump has left office. Very few constitutional scholars agree with them, though one who does, Jonathan Turley, was invited to the caucus lunch on Tuesday.
The trial will kick off in earnest in the second week of February, as Trump is tried for inciting the mob and pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn Georgia’s November election results. Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will preside.