SALEM, Ore. — A Democratic U.S. senator says he believes his Republican colleagues will be thinking about what's more important: their place in history or getting re-elected when they vote on former President Donald Trump's guilt or innocence on incitement of insurrection.
Senator Jeff Merkley told reporters on Thursday that the mood in the Senate chamber on Wednesday as the House impeachment managers began presenting their arguments — showing footage from the Capitol as insurrectionists poured inside — was "somber and very focused."
"Virtually all of us had been in that chamber on the day of the assault. We had heard the first confrontation outside the main doors to the Senate, the ones that lead down the hallway that goes to the House of Representatives," Merkley said.
"To see this again, laid out from the viewpoint from outside the Capitol, the sequence of the day and how all these events came to pass and to see how close we came to a much larger disaster . . . " Merkley continued. "Now it was a significant, significant — a disaster. You have five individuals who died. You have some 140 police officers who were injured."
Merkley said that, based on what he's heard from his colleagues, a decision by GOP senators to convict could run contrary to what voters in their states want.
"A number of colleagues are deeply troubled," Merkley said. "They know this is a moment in history, which they would like to do the right thing, but they feel the right thing may be in conflict with the political imperative of where their electoral base sits — the opinions of their electoral base.”
Only six Republican senators on Tuesday joined 50 Democrats in voting to proceed with the impeachment trial. But votes of two-thirds of members of the Senate —- or at least 67 votes — are needed to convict.
"You need to not only hold people accountable now, but we need to send a strong message to the future," Merkley said. "Coming together to repair our institutions is very important. Proceeding to allow the damage that has been done to sit unattended would be unpatriotic, un-American, and simply wrong.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.