How the Republican Party is punishing its own members for their votes to convict Trump

How the Republican Party is punishing its own members for their votes to convict Trump
Source: Patrick Semansky, Reuters
Many of the senators who voted against the former president are now facing scrutiny and punishment in their home states.

In the most bipartisan impeachment trial in the history of the United States, seven Senate Republicans voted in favor of convicting former-President Donald Trump on the articles of impeachment presented by the House of Representatives.

That number was still not enough to convict Trump but it does show he is losing some power within his party. Despite this breakaway group of GOP members, Trump still maintains a grip on the Republican Party through his loyal supporters. Many of the senators who voted against the former president are now facing scrutiny and punishment in their home states.

Richard Burr – North Carolina

Probably the most surprising vote against the former president was Senator Richard Burr. In a press release posted by the senator, Burr stated, “I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary.” He added that Trump needs to be held accountable, “by what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Burr is retiring after his term ends, so facing voters in the next election cycle is something that he doesn’t have to worry about. However, members of North Carolina’s GOP ensured that Burr would receive some sort of punishment.

On February 15, The Central Committee of the North Carolina Republican Party voted unanimously to censure Burr, stating the impeachment “lies outside the United States Constitution.”

Bill Cassidy – Louisiana

Senator Cassidy was another surprising vote, although he did signal earlier that he was leaning toward convicting Trump. In an article published by The Baton Rouge Advocate, Cassidy explained his vote.

“We know there was a calculated campaign to lie about the election; numerous lawsuits advertised as alleging fraud; pressure on state officials; a rally in Washington during the certification process; and direction from President Trump to march toward the Capitol where the mob broke in,” he wrote. “I have no illusions that this is a popular decision … I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I take that oath seriously.”

For Louisiana Republicans, this was indeed an unpopular decision. On February 13, The Louisiana GOP again unanimously voted to censure Cassidy. In a tweet explaining their vote, the Republican Party of Louisiana wrote, “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the vote today by Sen. Cassidy to convict former President Trump. Fortunately, clearer heads prevailed and President Trump has been acquitted of the impeachment charge filed against him.”

Mitt Romney – Utah

As a vocal critic throughout Trump’s presidency, it may have come as no surprise that Romney voted to impeach Trump, his second time voting in favor of impeaching the former president.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported a censure document circulating among members of Utah’s Republican Party. Instead, the party publicly supported Romney for his vote.

“The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on ‘unanimity of thought,” the party wrote in a statement. “There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah."

Lisa Murkowski – Alaska

As of yet, Senator Murkowski has not received any punishment in her home state for her vote to impeach Trump. However, she is the only one of all seven senators who faces reelection in two years. Murkowski recently told reporters she couldn’t be afraid of the political consequences of her vote.

“My obligation is to support the Constitution that I have pledged to uphold,” she answered when asked about the potential censorship from members of the GOP in Alaska, “and I will do that, even if it means that I have to oppose the direction of my state party.”

Murkowski still plans on running as a Republican in next year’s election, but admits she is not a “Trump Republican.”

Other possible censures

Senators Susan Collins, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey are all facing potential censures from Republicans in their home states.

Toomey, who is not running for reelection in 2022, justified his vote to impeach the former president over inciting the rioters who ransacked the US Capitol building on January 6 by saying that Trump had “inflamed their passions by repeating disproven allegations about widespread fraud.”

In response, Washington County’s GOP chairman David Ball said party members felt betrayed by Toomey, but also admitted party censure would be counterproductive.

“As far as we’re concerned, his political career is over in this state, even if he were to try to run again … I don’t know exactly how you punish someone further and does it serve a purpose.”

Sasse is also facing potential censure for his actions regarding Trump’s impeachment. In response, the senator released a video explaining his actions.

“You are welcome to censure me again, but let’s be clear about why this is happening: It’s because I still believe – as you used to – that politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude," Sasse said. “The party could purge Trump skeptics, but I’d like to convince you that not only is this civic cancer for the nation, it’s also terrible for our party."

Rumors are circulating that Maine Republican Chair Demi Kouzounas planned a meeting to discuss rebuking Senator Collins because of her vote to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection. Collins, who has not shied away from publicly criticizing Trump, responded to the censure.

“I would point out that I am the sole remaining Republican officeholder at the federal level in all of New England … and that tells me that we should focus on growing our party."

Despite receiving too few votes to impeach the former president, seven senators voting against Trump may signal a rift within the Republican Party. But, for now at least, it certainly appears that Trump still holds much of the power within the Republican Party.

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