Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks MORE (D-Conn.) caused a stir Friday when he said a “handful” of Senate Republican colleagues have privately told him they would consider voting to remove President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE from office.
Murphy conceded “it’s a small list, on one hand,” but Democrats would consider it a major victory if they could tout a bipartisan vote in the Senate to remove Trump from office in an election year.
His remarks created buzz since no congressional Republicans have publicly said they would even consider taking such a step, and not one House GOP lawmaker voted for the resolution establishing the rules for the impeachment inquiry. But Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance Vietnam shadow hangs over Biden decision on Afghanistan Kamala Harris and our shameless politics MORE (Mich.), an independent who left the Republican Party in July, said Friday he would vote for articles of impeachment.
Senate insiders and outside political observers say there are only three GOP senators who might vote to convict Trump on any articles of impeachment.
Here they are, along with a handful of others who could entertain the idea but are almost certain to vote to acquit.
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden, NATO eye 'all scenarios' with Russia Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law The Hill's Morning Report - US warns Kremlin, weighs more troops to Europe MORE (Maine)
Collins has carefully avoided commenting on evidence that has emerged from the House impeachment inquiry even though she has been one of the president’s most vocal Republican critics in the Senate, breaking with Trump on several high-profile votes.
While Collins has declined to say how she might vote on articles of impeachment, citing her likely role as a juror who will need to weigh the evidence impartially, she has followed the House proceedings more closely than many of her Senate GOP colleagues.
“I’m definitely reading materials. I’ve started reviewing the transcripts. My staff is doing summaries of some of the witnesses. I’ve asked them to compile each day the major moments in the hearings in the House,” she told reporters last month.
Collins has the toughest decision of any of the Senate Republicans seen as potentially voting for articles of impeachment — she is up for reelection in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Armageddon elections to come Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' MORE in 2016.
She will also have to consider her long-established brand as an independent-minded moderate, which surely will come under attack from Democrats if she votes to acquit.
But if Collins votes to convict, she could face a primary challenge next year from former Maine Gov. Paul LePage or one of his GOP allies.
“The one worry that she has would be the primary. Paul LePage has returned to Maine to make it known that even he would run against her if she didn’t toe the line, which would mean support for Donald Trump,” said Janet Martin, a government professor at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
Adding to the pressure is one of Collins’s mentors, former Maine Sen. William Cohen (R), who helped seal President Nixon’s fate in 1974 when he voted for two articles of impeachment as a House Judiciary Committee member.
Cohen told The Associated Press last month that Trump committed something “tantamount to a criminal act” by threatening to withhold money for Ukraine unless it pledged to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE.
“To me it’s an impeachable act,” he said.
Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOfficer who directed rioters away from senators says Jan. 6 could have been a 'bloodbath' Ukraine's 'Back to the Future' scenario: Deploying troops is a Cold War solution Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE (Utah)
Romney has emerged as one of Trump’s toughest Republican critics in Congress since taking office in January.
He has called Trump’s prodding of Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden “troubling in the extreme.” When the president also called on China to investigate Biden, Romney blasted the move as “wrong and appalling.”
Romney, 72, is seen as having the most freedom to vote to convict, as he made his concerns about the president’s character known during the 2016 primary, when he excoriated Trump as “a phony” and “a fraud” in a last ditch effort to deprive him of the nomination.
Romney’s career as a former governor and GOP presidential nominee, in addition to his fortune amassed in the private sector, affords him greater independence than most lawmakers.
A Republican source familiar with Romney’s thinking told The Hill in October that the Utah senator is “more concerned about his legacy in terms of his family, his faith, his country and his party” than about whether he is popular with fellow Senate Republicans.
Vin Weber, who served as an adviser to Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, says Romney will follow his conscience and vote how he thinks is best for the country.
“I’m sure he’s deeply troubled by Trump’s actions because he’s a person of pristine integrity and high intellect,” Weber said.
He added that Romney will also carefully weigh the national implications of voting to remove a president from office for the first time in American history.
“My guess is that Sen. Romney, although he’s going to be really troubled by this, is going to come to the conclusion the country’s interests are not served by removing Donald Trump from office,” he said.
But if Romney decides that’s what’s best for the country, he will vote without fear of political backlash, Weber said. “He’s a strong man and he’ll do what he thinks is the right thing.”
Tim Chambless, an associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, said Romney’s clashes with Trump have cost him some support, noting that an October poll showed Romney with a 46 percent approval rating and 51 percent disapproval rating in the state.
But Romney, who isn’t up for reelection until 2024, has free rein to vote how he wants, Chambless said.
Relations between Trump and Romney have remained strained. In October, the president slammed Romney as a “pompous ass.” Just last week, Romney shot down Trump’s suggestion that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election.
Romney has declined to comment on the evidence against Trump produced by the House inquiry, saying says he will weigh all the facts once they are presented to the Senate before expressing his judgment.
Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Trump sold off the Arctic Refuge — Congress must end this risky boondoggle MORE (Alaska)
Murkowski has cast some of the biggest votes against Trump of any Senate Republican since the start of his presidency.
She voted against Trump’s effort to repeal ObamaCare and opposed the president’s embattled Supreme Court pick, Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Will the justices end race-based affirmative action? Are the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? MORE.
Murkowski isn’t up for reelection until 2022, and her base of political support in Alaska includes independents and Democrats who helped her win a write-in campaign in 2010 when she lost the GOP primary to a conservative challenger.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murkowski criticized Trump for holding up U.S. aid to Ukraine, telling a reporter in October: “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we previously appropriated for a political initiative.”
Like Collins and Romney, Murkowski has declined to comment on the developments of the House impeachment inquiry and says she will weigh the evidence when articles of impeachment are submitted to the Senate.
“Alaskans are not paying much attention to the House impeachment drama,” she told The Hill last month.
“They’re seeing the headlines in their paper and know that it’s underway, but I’ve been checking in with my staff that are working the phone lines, not just here in D.C. but around the state. I check the mail traffic coming in and it is not something that is occupying the waking hours of Alaskans right now,” she added.
Other Senate Republicans
After Collins, Romney and Murkowski, there is a larger group of GOP senators who have publicly or privately expressed concern over Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine and his attempt to persuade Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to conduct a corruption investigation.
The group includes GOP lawmakers such as Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanNew Mexico Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case Marjorie Taylor Greene endorses JD Vance in Ohio Senate race MORE (Ohio), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski rolls out rural policy plan Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Conservative pundit says YouTube blocked interview with Rand Paul MORE (Wis.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSen. Tim Scott rakes in nearly million in fourth quarter These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Supreme Court allows lawsuits against Texas abortion ban MORE (S.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (Fla.), and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (Tenn.), who is not seeking reelection.
But none of them are seen as being close to voting for any articles of impeachment, barring a major revelation of new information, say Senate GOP aides.
A senior Senate GOP aide said Collins, Romney and Murkowski are the only possible defectors “and the list ends there” unless dramatically new information emerges before a vote.
“There is not a next tier, absent some new evidence,” said the aide.
Other potential defectors on an impeachment vote are Republicans facing tough reelections such as Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerEleven interesting races to watch in 2022 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules Gun control group alleges campaign finance violations in lawsuit against NRA MORE (Colo.), who is seeking another term in a state that voted for Clinton in 2016, and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Business groups, sensing victory, keep up pressure over tax hikes Kelly raises million in third quarter MORE (Ariz.), a top Democratic target.
Republican strategists argue that voting for articles of impeachment would hurt Gardner and McSally more than it would help them in 2020.
“Politically, it doesn’t benefit anybody because if you vote to impeach, the base abandons you and Democrats are never going to say, ‘Thank God you voted to impeach, you have my vote,’ and the moderates and independents don’t care about this,” said the Senate GOP aide.
“For Gardner and McSally and [Sen. Thom] Tillis [N.C.] and [Sen. David] Perdue [Ga.] there is no net benefit to voting to convict on any of the charges because you will lose the loyalty of your base,” the aide said, referring to other Senate Republicans up for reelection.