Early Procedural Test Shows Where Senate GOP May Stand On Convicting Trump Sen. Rand Paul forced a vote on whether the Constitution allows the Senate to try a former president. Ahead of the trial it could indicate how many Republicans are open to voting to convict Trump.
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Early Procedural Test Shows Where Senate GOP May Stand On Convicting Trump

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Early Procedural Test Shows Where Senate GOP May Stand On Convicting Trump

Early Procedural Test Shows Where Senate GOP May Stand On Convicting Trump

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Senators were sworn in yesterday to be jurors in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump over his role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But that procedural step was marked by a bit of drama thanks to a maneuver by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, as NPR's Barbara Sprunt reports.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: In a tweet on Monday, Paul previewed that he wanted to force lawmakers on the record over the issue of whether former President Trump's impeachment trial is constitutional. He did just that yesterday. The move caught even some of his colleagues off guard.

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LISA MURKOWSKI: I think I was more surprised than anything.

SPRUNT: That's Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator from Alaska. Paul argued the trial is a partisan exercise and unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.

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RAND PAUL: If the accused is no longer president, where is the constitutional power to impeach him? Private citizens don't get impeached. Impeachment is for removal from office, and the accused here has already left office.

SPRUNT: But Majority Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the idea and sought to table the motion.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: The theory that the Senate can't try former officials would amount to a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card for any president who commits an impeachable offense.

SPRUNT: The Senate voted 55-45 to reject Paul's argument, clearing the way for the trial to move forward on February 9. The outcome was expected. Democrats had enough votes to dismiss Paul's motion, but the vote count is telling and likely foreshadows the intentions of most Republican senators during the trial itself. It could signal a blow to the House's case in the Senate before the trial even starts. A two-thirds majority is required for a Senate conviction. Democrats would need 17 Republicans to join them to convict Trump. And in this vote, only five Republicans joined Democrats to table the motion. That includes Murkowski. She says she expects the question about constitutionality to come up during the trial.

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MURKOWSKI: I think this is a matter that needs to be brought before the full Senate. I think we need to have that level of briefings.

SPRUNT: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has left the door open on how he would vote after the trial. Still, even he sided with most of the Republican conference in support of Paul's motion. Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, a Republican, said the vote doesn't necessarily indicate that lawmakers will vote one way or another after the trial.

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JOHN THUNE: I just think that it was a question on the constitutionality of it. I don't think it binds anybody once the trial starts.

SPRUNT: But Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who voted with the Democrats, says the implication is clear - the Senate will ultimately not convict Trump.

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SUSAN COLLINS: Do the math.

SPRUNT: Do the math, she says.

Barbara Sprunt, NPR News, Washington.

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