Shared hopes the Republican Party would have a post-Trump “epiphany” quickly after he announced his candidacy in 2019. But almost two years later, he's holding his words used against him as Republicans wrestle with Trump's expected departure from office.
Vice President Mike Pence set the tone when he pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to "further divide and inflame the passions of the moment." Pence wrote that in response to Pelosi's 24-hour ultimatum that he would invoke the Constitution's 25th Amendment against Trump, or she would call House Democrats' impeachment article against the president up for a vote.
In his message, Pence went on to urge Pelosi to cooperate with Republicans "to lower the temperature and unite our country." A week earlier, pro-Trump supporters charged the U.S. Capitol after a protest headlined by the president. Five people died in the invasion, starting to stop the congressional counting of Biden's Electoral College votes.
House Republicans then exploited the message in press releases and floor speeches to transfer their objection for another Trump impeachment. Now, senators are leaning into the composition as they prepare for a likely trial, despite questions surrounding the process given Trump's term will have expired.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will lose that title to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer next week, hasn't decided whether to justify or convict Trump for provoking a riot. McConnell told colleagues in an email Wednesday he means "to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”'
Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, one of 17 GOP senators who would have to join 50 Democrats to condemn Trump, wrote Thursday that he believed the president bore "some responsibility for what occurred." But Portman added that "all of us should be concerned about the polarization in our country and work toward bringing people together.
"If the Senate conducts an impeachment trial, among my considerations will be what is best to help heal our country rather than deepen our divisions," he said in a statement.
Biden's call for unity has incited multiple problems. It got him backlashes for being transparent. And it attracted violence when he praised his record of bipartisanship, whether by cooperating with known segregationists when he was a senator or referring to Pence as a "decent guy."
Even after the Capitol attack, Biden has contacted Republicans. His discussions, such as those with Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, seemed to be a sign of respect for differing with Trump's election challenges. Other discussions with the likes of McConnell signal he's worried about his legislative agenda with a 50-50 seat split Senate. Democrats will only control the chamber thanks to Kamala Harris's tie breaking vote once she is sworn in as vice president.