GOP senators reject punishing Romney for impeachment vote

Republican senators quickly shot down talk of punishing Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans NRCC poll finds McBath ahead of Handel in Georgia MORE (Utah) after the party's 2012 presidential nominee voted to convict President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal 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 BraunSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Lawmakers aim for COVID-19 relief deal this week MORE (R-Ind.) dismissed suggestions that Romney be expelled from the party as "silly talk."

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute McConnell tees up showdown on unemployment benefits Senate panel scraps confirmation hearing for controversial Pentagon nominee at last minute MORE (R-N.D.) also said he didn't agree with calls to remove him. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"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 CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for 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 CollinsCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns 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."