Who really thought they would? Democrats in both chambers want to punish Republicans that voted to reject electors certified by the states in the 2020 election, a move that arguably raised completely unrealistic expectations — and violated the jurisdiction of Congress to boot. In order to proceed in the Senate, Democrats would need to peel off at least one Republican in support of a censure, and Mitt Romney might have been seen as the most likely candidate.
Pass, Romney told CNN’s Manu Raju a few minutes ago. Romney won’t vote to punish “legitimate questions,” even if he disagreed with the effort:
Asked if he’s leaning toward conviction, Romney told me: “I'm going to wait and see the the evidence as it’s presented.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 19, 2021
Romney’s only barely correct that the questions were legitimate. Congress can take up any questions it likes in committees, investigations, speeches on the floor, and so on. That’s true in both chambers. However, the process by which Cruz, Hawley et al forced debate on those questions was entirely illegitimate. Congress has no authority to approve or certify electors; that authority rests with the states, who conduct those elections. The only authority Congress has to do anything other than count the electors is when states send two competing certified slates of electors, which no state did. Cruz, Hawley et al violated their duty to the Constitution in challenging those electors, as did Barbara Boxer in 2005.
However, this failure extends to Congress as a whole. Those challenges should have been ruled out of order in the first place, which would have forced a procedural vote. Perhaps because of the Boxer precedent, and because House Republican leadership wanted to exploit this for their own purposes, no one put an end to the grandstanding. That’s why Romney’s not inclined to punish Cruz and Hawley (and the other Senate Republicans that went along), because complicity stretches across the entire caucus.
Romney sounds a bit more open on conviction of Donald Trump in an impeachment trial, but hardly enthusiastic. It sounds more like Romney’s playing unbiased juror at the moment, but if he’s not showing much enthusiasm now, it seems impossible to imagine that sixteen other Republicans will come along for the ride, at least while Trump keeps from making things worse.
Or perhaps they’ll need seventeen. Look who also thinks impeachment will become moot at noon tomorrow:
Senator Feinstein asked about her preferences in terms of impeachment vs moving on noms calls it a “moot question.”
“Well, I think it's a moot question, this President's leaving office so it won't have any practical application. But whatever happens is fine with me.”
— Alan He (@alanhe) January 19, 2021
One has to wonder whether a trial will take place at all. Maybe everyone wants to turn the page instead.