GOP senators reject punishing Romney for impeachment vote

Republican senators quickly shot down talk of punishing Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt Romney7 things to know about the coronavirus stimulus package Scarborough rips Trump for mocking Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'Could have been a death sentence' Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (Utah) after the party's 2012 presidential nominee voted to convict President TrumpDonald John TrumpHealth insurers Cigna, Humana waive out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus treatment Puerto Rico needs more federal help to combat COVID-19 Fauci says April 30 extension is 'a wise and prudent decision' MORE on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power.

Romney announced shortly before the votes on the House-passed articles that he would be the only GOP senator to move to convict Trump, saying the president was "guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust." 

His decision sparked an immediate backlash from from top Trump allies, including Donald Trump Jr., who publicly called for Romney to “be expelled" from the Republican Party.

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But that demand, or a formal punishment from within the caucus, was quickly ruled out by Romney's GOP colleagues. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMnuchin emerges as key asset in Trump's war against coronavirus Louisiana Republican: People upset at 'spending porn on pet projects' in latest stimulus bill Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE (R-Ky.) noted that he was "surprised and disappointed" by Romney's decision, but indicated that he would not face a formal punishment. 

"I think Senator Romney has been largely supportive of most everything we've tried to accomplish," he told reporters shortly after the vote.

Asked how long Romney would be in the doghouse, McConnell laughed and added: "We don't have any doghouses here. The most important vote is the next vote." 

Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunSenate GOP looking at ,200 in coronavirus cash payments GOP divided on next steps for massive stimulus package United Airlines makes further cuts to flight schedules amid crisis MORE (R-Ind.) dismissed suggestions that Romney be expelled from the party as "silly talk."

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC GOP senator apologizes for tweet calling Pelosi 'retarded,' blames autocorrect Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate MORE (R-N.D.) also said he didn't agree with calls to remove him. 

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"I don't really know how you expel someone from the Republican Party. ... I'm glad that Mitt is a Republican. I'm disappointed that he's wrong on this vote," Cramer said. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Cuban says he'd spank daughter if she was partying during coronavirus pandemic Twitter comes under fire over Chinese disinformation on coronavirus MORE (R-Texas), a top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), added that the president should focus on his acquittal, not Romney’s dissenting vote. 

“I think that’s a better thing to focus on,” he said.

Asked about a formal punishment from the Senate GOP conference, Cornyn also appeared to rule that out. 

“We always have instances where individual senators will vote differently from the rest of the conference but I don’t think that retaliation is called for,” he said.

The Senate voted to acquit Trump on both charges, falling well short of the two-thirds needed to remove him from office.

Romney was one of three GOP senators who were viewed as potential swing votes on whether to convict Trump on the two House-passed articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

The two others, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break Turning the virus into a virtue — for the planet MORE (Alaska), both announced earlier this week that they would vote to acquit Trump on both charges. 

But they each indicated on Wednesday that they respected Romney's decision and did not think he should be punished. Collins, asked if Romney should be removed from the party, told reporters "of course not." 

"I think each of us had to come to our own place and I respect his decision," Murkowksi said. 

Asked if he should be removed from the party, she added: "Nope, not at all."