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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 RomneyPoll: Trump, Biden tied in Georgia McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate Trump tells Fox he wants bigger relief deal as Pelosi's deadline nears MORE (Utah) after the party's 2012 presidential nominee voted to convict President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally 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 McConnellOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress 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 BraunGOP lawmakers gloomy, back on defense after debate fiasco Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink MORE (R-Ind.) dismissed suggestions that Romney be expelled from the party as "silly talk."

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project 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 Cornyn'Seinfeld' cast members reuniting for Texas Democratic Party fundraiser Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal 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 CollinsSenate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll 51 percent want Barrett seated on Supreme Court: poll MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal 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."