GOP gives Trump unapologetic embrace over impeachment

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House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

WASHINGTON, DC – Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on his Republican-led Senate Thursday to keep the impeached President Donald Trump in office, as the chamber edged toward a fray that spotlights the GOP's most unapologetic embrace yet of Trump.

“A political faction in the lower chamber has succumbed to partisan rage," said McConnell, R-Ky., a day after the Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach Trump, despite an extraordinary show of fealty by Republicans voting unanimously against the move. He added later: “‘The Senate must put this right. We must rise to the occasion."

The Senate seems certain to keep Trump in office with overwhelming GOP support in a trial likely to start in January. Coupled with House Republicans' solidarity Wednesday, that underscores a remarkable turnaround from four years ago, when many GOP lawmakers wanted nothing to do with the insurgent and inflammatory Trump campaign.

Now, the impeachment battle spotlights how firmly Republicans are tethered to a president whose loyalty from his party's core conservative voters is matched only by his opponents' loathing for him.

Trump boasted about GOP unity during the impeachment vote. “You've never seen a Republican Party, zero negative votes. Zero,” he said Thursday. ”That hasn’t happened almost ever because the Republicans are not necessarily known for that.”

Yet it's unclear what the political impact on GOP candidates will be.

Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., uttered GOP blasphemy this fall when he said he was open to considering impeachment. He announced his retirement from Congress the next day. He ended up joining his colleagues in opposing impeachment Wednesday and said that vote further aligned his party to Trump.

“And that’s not necessarily the Republican Party that I’ve been part of and been a funder for, for many years,” he said. "This is a different era that we’re in for Republicans, and I don’t know where it’s going to go.”