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GOP senators reject punishing Romney for impeachment vote

Republican senators quickly shot down talk of punishing Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP MORE (Utah) after the party's 2012 presidential nominee voted to convict President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire 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 McConnellWhat would MLK say about Trump and the Republican Party? Biden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party 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 BraunTop Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win Congress affirms Biden win after rioters terrorize Capitol Congress rejects challenge to Arizona's presidential vote MORE (R-Ind.) dismissed suggestions that Romney be expelled from the party as "silly talk."

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Regulator finalizes rule forcing banks to serve oil, gun companies 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 CornynHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Cruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time 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 CollinsBiden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBiden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party Democratic lawmaker says 'assassination party' hunted for Pelosi during riot 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."