Senate so far split neatly along party lines on impeachment

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves after the Senate heard closing arguments in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate is so far cleaving neatly along party lines in advance of Wednesday's virtually certain votes to acquit President Donald Trump on two impeachment charges, with just two or three undecided members even considering breaking with their party.

A leading GOP moderate, Susan Collins of Maine, announced she will vote to acquit Trump, leaving Utah Sen. Mitt Romney as the only potential GOP vote to convict Trump of abusing his office and stonewalling Congress.

Collins said “it was wrong" for Trump to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, but that Trump's conduct, however flawed, does not warrant “the extreme step of immediate removal from office." Collins voted to acquit former President Bill Clinton at his trial in 1999 .

More typical of the GOP side was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who again slammed the impeachment drive of House Democrats as “the most rushed, least fair and least thorough" in history and confirmed that he will vote to acquit Trump.

The trial is cruising to impeachment tallies that will fall short of even a majority of the GOP-held Senate, much less the two-thirds required to remove Trump from office and install Vice President Mike Pence.

The final days of the trial have focused attention on a handful of senators in both parties who were viewed as potential votes to break with their party. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called the president's actions “shameful and wrong" in a powerful speech late Monday, but she also derided the highly partisan process. “I cannot vote to convict,” she said, though she also sees blame within the Senate.

"We are part of the problem, as an institution that cannot see beyond the blind political polarization,'' Murkowski told reporters after her speech.

Other Republicans, such as Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio, also say Trump's actions to withhold military aid from Ukraine while pressing Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter were inappropriate, but fell short of warranting his removal from office, especially in an election year.