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Rand Paul to force test vote to gauge Republican support for Trump impeachment trial

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Paul, a Kentucky Republican, told reporters he’s going to force a procedural vote on the constitutionality of a Senate trial. The vote is expected to take place Tuesday afternoon after senators are sworn in as jurors.

“I think there will be enough (votes) to show that more than a third of the Senate thinks that the whole proceeding is unconstitutional, which will show that ultimately they don’t have the votes to do an impeachment,” he said.

The Democratic-led House has already voted to impeach Trump, charging him with incitement of insurrection for the attack on the Capitol that left multiple people dead. But two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict Trump after a trial, an extremely high bar to clear.

The vote Paul plans to force will effectively put senators on record as to whether they believe a trial of a former President is constitutional. Given the limited language in the Constitution on impeachment, legal experts disagree about whether the Senate can convict a former president. But Democrats have pointed to legal scholars on both ends of the political spectrum who say a trial is constitutional.

A number of Republicans, however, are arguing that such a move would be unconstitutional, and the vote Paul is forcing will show exactly how many plan to take that stand.

The vote will fail in a Senate with an even partisan split of 50-50, and won’t do anything to stop the trial, but it will show where Republican support for a trial lies at the moment.

Paul told CNN that he will address the Senate Republican conference at lunch Tuesday if asked to explain his plans. But GOP leaders are uncertain how the conference will come down. Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, wouldn’t say how he would vote. While John Cornyn and John Barrasso, two other members of leadership, both said they would side with Paul.

Cornyn called the vote a “vote of conscience.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said earlier on Tuesday of the possibility Paul could force the vote, “he has a wealth of very unusual ideas.”

Paul said in a floor speech ahead of the vote, “I want this body on record, every last person here: Is this how you think politics should be?”

“Democrats insist on applying a test of incitement to a Republican that they refuse to apply to themselves,” he said. “I want Democrats to raise their hands if they have ever given a speech that says ‘take back,’ ‘fight for your country,’ who hasn’t used the words fight figuratively?”

He went on to say, “Are we going to put every politician in jail — are we going to impeach every politician who has used the words fight figuratively in a speech? Shame!”

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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