The seven Republican Senators who voted with all 50 Democrats to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection in the Capitol are now exposed to the heat of Conservatives in their home states.
Party leaders and local GOP officials, many of whom are trying to find favor with the broad swath of conservative voters still loyal to Trump, have condemned the seven lawmakers for engaging with the rest of the party.
The criticism illustrates the strong influence Trump continues to have nationally against Republicans despite his defeat in November and subsequent refusal to admit defeat.
Polls conducted after last month’s attack on Congress continue to show that Trump has a sky-high approval rating among Republicans and that roughly half of the GOP are primarily loyal to the ex-president himself rather than the party.
The Senate acquitted Trump on Saturday after an unprecedented second impeachment process with 57 to 43 votes.
While Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was the only GOP member to vote against Trump after his first trial, this time there were six more: Richard Burr from North Carolina, Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, Susan Collins from Maine Lisa Murkowski from Alaska , Ben Sasse from Nebraska and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania.
Some of the senators, including Cassidy, have already been reprimanded by official reprimands from their state party, while many of the others are criticized by local conservatives. Cassidy was censored by the Louisiana GOP a few hours after his vote.
The backlash against Sasse, which is also expected to face formal criticism, was directly mentioned by one of Trump’s Senate defenders.
“There seem to be some pretty clever lawyers in Nebraska, and I can’t believe the United States Senator doesn’t know,” Bruce Castor Jr. said during an at times confusing address. Castor said Sasse “is facing a whirlwind, even though he knows what the judiciary thinks in his state.”
Based on previous comments criticizing Trump, local GOP chapters in several Nebraska counties have passed resolutions calling for Sasse’s criticism, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. A meeting of the state GOP to officially reprimand the senator has been postponed because of the weather, the newspaper reported.
Burr, a senior Republican whose election to condemn Trump came as a surprise to most observers, also drew fire from home-state Conservatives.
“The Republicans of North Carolina sent Senator Burr to the United States Senate to uphold the Constitution and today’s vote to condemn a process he ruled unconstitutional is shocking and disappointing,” said Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley, in a statement.
Burr is not seeking re-election for a fourth term in the Senate. Mark Walker, a Republican aspiring to succeed him in 2022, wrote in a post on Twitter shortly after the vote on Saturday: “Wrong vote, Sen. Burr,” and added a donation message.
Toomey could also face “possible setbacks at home”, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The newspaper reported that in response to Toomey’s vote, Lawrence Tabas, the state’s GOP chairman, said he shared “the disappointment of many of our grassroots leaders and volunteers.”
Overall, the backlash is unlikely to cause election damage in the short term. Six of the seven Republicans will not be re-elected next year in the 2022 cycle. Only Murkowski, who has served in the Senate since 2002, faces an upcoming re-election campaign.
Some have speculated that the impeachment vote in Alaska could give former Governor Sarah Palin an impetus to run in a primary. Palin herself has fueled rumors that she would be entering the race.
Each of the seven Republicans who voted to condemn Trump have defended their decision in statements and posts on social media. In a video posted online before the vote, Sasse reiterated his warnings about Republicans’ loyalty to Trump, saying “Politics is not about strange worship of a man.”
Toomey admitted in a thread on Posts on Twitter that Trump’s attorneys “made several precise observations” during their arguments. But he said, “As a result of President Trump’s actions, the transfer of power from the president was not peaceful for the first time in American history.”
“His betrayal of the constitution and his oath of office required conviction,” wrote Toomey, defending his decision.
Cassidy said in an interview on ABC News on Sunday that he “tried to hold President Trump accountable” and that Cassidy was “very confident that people will move to that position over time”.
“The Republican Party is more than just a person. The Republican Party is about ideas,” he said.
CNBC has reached out to each of the seven Republican lawmakers.
Criticism of the Senators reflects previous attacks on the House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment in the lower chamber. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney was censored by Republicans in her state after her House colleagues unsuccessfully urged her to be removed from her leadership role.
Some Republicans who didn’t even vote for Trump’s impeachment have been criticized for not being respectful enough of the ex-president. For example, Senate Minority Chairman Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Voted in favor of the acquittal, but harshly criticized Trump’s January 6 rally speech, accusing him of being responsible for the day’s violence.
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., sentenced McConnell on Sunday for the speech.
“I think Sen. McConnell’s speech obviously took a burden off his chest, but unfortunately he put a burden on the Republicans,” Graham told Fox News. “You will see this speech in campaigns in 2022.”
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