As some Republicans try to make a break from the politics of former President Donald J. Trump, his loyalists have issued a series of censures and denouncements that lay bare the roiling conflict within the party.
The Nelson County, Ky., GOP deemed Sen. Mitch McConnell unfit for the Republican Party after he issued a scathing denunciation of Trump’s actions during the Capitol riot. The group voted unanimously to censure the senator.
McConnell’s censure came just six hours after he stood on the Senate floor and accused Trump of provoking the riot in his strongest critique of the former president. The resolution demanded that McConnell retract his statements, which Nelson County Republican Party Chairman Don Thrasher said “impugned the character of President Trump.”
“We suspected that he wasn’t really on President Trump’s side. Now that he’s come out and betrayed him, we know for sure that Mitch McConnell is a cancer on not only Kentucky politics but the politics of the United States,” Thrasher told Zenger News.
The influx of recent censures reflects a growing willingness among Republicans to break from Trump. Ten Republicans voted to impeach Trump over his involvement in the Capitol riots, an increase from just one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who voted against Trump during his 2019 impeachment.
Historically, censures have been used to publicly condemn politicians whose actions have deviated from the values of the group they represent. If a member of Congress is censured, they must step down from any committee chairs they hold and stand before their colleagues to hear the resolution.
A censure, unlike an impeachment, does not hold any penalty for future reelection efforts. Sen. John S. McCain III, R-Ariz., was famously censured in 2014 for what was seen by his fellow Republicans as a liberal voting record. The criticism had little effect on his supporters, as McCain won his sixth term in the Senate just two years later.
The threat of censure has also come for McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain. The Arizona Republican Party called to censure McCain over her support for President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and same-sex marriage. The state party is set to vote on the resolution on Jan. 23.
Censures are not exclusive to political organizations. The Persisterhood of Saint Joseph, Mo., issued a censure against Rep. Sam B. Graves, R-Mo., for his objection to the 2020 presidential election results. The group is also calling for the resignation of fellow Missouri Republican Sen. Josh D. Hawley — who was pictured raising his fist in alliance with Capitol rioters — in an effort to end what the group calls “Trumpism.”
Rep. Liz L. Cheney, Wyoming’s only U.S. House Representative, was censured unanimously by the Republican Party in Carbon County, Wyo., on the grounds that her opposition to Trump was “out-of-touch” with her constituents, 70% of whom voted for him. Party Chairman Joey Correnti IV summoned Cheney to explain her actions before the group, and she has yet to give a formal response.
“The biggest concern that we’ve faced in the past and more than once, is really a lack of consideration and communication. Our elected officials tend to get elected, and then forget about the party until it’s time to get elected again,” Correnti, told Zenger.
“I forwarded a copy [of the resolution] with an email to her state director of operations, asking that it be sent on to Representative Cheney, and the reply I got back was ‘Yes, thank you’. That’s the only response we received,’” said Correnti.
Censures have been used to hold politicians accountable for a variety of issues, including corruption, disloyal speech, and sexual misconduct. In 1834, President Andrew Jackson was censured for his decision to transfer federal bank funds to state banks.
Censures do not always result in formal action, but often come with public embarrassment. A resolution to censure former President Bill Clinton over his sexual misconduct scandal was attempted in 1998 but failed.
A committee in the Virginia state Senate moved to censure Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase over her controversial comments on the storming of the Capitol, including calling the rioters “patriots” who had been “backed into a corner.”
Chase, who has described herself as “Trump in heels,” lost her last committee assignment on Tuesday in accordance with the censure. The motion, which was introduced by Democratic state Sen. John J. Bell, may be withdrawn if Chase revokes her comments before the Senate.
“I don’t think of this as a partisan issue. There is a certain decorum in government. As an elected official you have a platform, and you have to behave in a way that represents the best of Virginia. 400,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and it is a dangerous thing to say that you don’t believe in it. We have free speech but we can’t yell fire in a theater,” Bell told Zenger.
Chase’s censure came after the latest in a string of controversial actions from the state senator, who is running for the Republican nomination for Virginia governor in the 2021 election.
“Chase made a number of inflammatory comments and called all Democrats racist. She has given up personal information about where her colleagues lived. It is frankly irresponsible and very troubling,” said Bell.
Chase responded to the censure with one of her own.
The state senator plans to file a resolution to censure Democratic state Sen. Louise Lucas for attending a Black Lives Matter protest at a Confederate monument in June 2020.
(Edited by Kristen Butler and Alex Patrick)
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