On Thursday, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) accused Republican politicians and activists of engaging in “cancel culture” for seeking to censure GOP senators who voted to impeach and convict former President Donald Trump.
In his first interview since he voted Saturday to acquit the former commander-in-chief, the No. 2 Senate Republican defended GOP lawmakers who sided with Democrats on the “vote of conscience” and warned against shutting out dissenting voices in the party.
“There was a strong case made,” Thune said of the Democrats’ impeachment presentation to the Associated Press. “People could come to different conclusions. If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves.”
Next year, the three-term senator is facing reelection in deep-red South Dakota. According to the AP, Trump loyalists are huddling to challenge Thune in 2022, which could present a bitter battle for Thune since his candidacy has gone unchallenged in past elections.
The senator only rarely criticized Trump while he was in office, as the AP noted. However, he called the former commander-in-chief’s actions after the 2020 presidential election “inexcusable” and accused him of undermining the peaceful transfer of power.
The South Dakota Republican, according to the AP, also suggested that he would be taking steps to assist candidates who “don’t go off and talk about conspiracies and that sort of thing.”
Moreover, Thune lauded GOP Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party for voting to impeach Trump, for doing an “exceptional job on most issues” and said he was ready to jump into primary battles like the one she is sure to face.
“At the grassroots level, there’s a lot of people who want to see Trump-like candidates,” Thune told the AP. “But I think we’re going to be looking for candidates that are electable.”
Like Cheney, Republican Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.), who voted to convict Trump, were censured by their states’ Republican parties. The Pennsylvania GOP, the AP reported Monday USA Today, is reportedly planning a meeting to discuss censuring outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey for his vote to convict the former president.
During the Senate impeachment trial, Thune and other Republicans argued that Trump could not be impeached because he was no longer in office. After his vote, according to the AP, Thune said that he was concerned with the idea of “punishing a private citizen with the sole intent of disqualifying him from holding future office.”
Nonetheless, Thune indicated last week, according to The Hill, that he was open to censuring Trump before the final impeachment vote was held.
“I know there are a couple of resolutions out there […] I’ve seen a couple of resolutions at least that I think could attract some support,” Thune said to reporters at the time.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Rep. Patrick McHenry Announces Retirement, Adding to Congressional Exodus
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., has declared that he will not seek re-election, becoming the latest in a growing list of lawmakers departing from Congress. McHenry, a close ally of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, stated that he believes “there is a season for everything,” signaling the end of his tenure in the House. Having served since 2005, McHenry is the 37th member of Congress to announce they won’t seek re-election in 2024.
In a statement, McHenry reflected on the significance of the House of Representatives in the American political landscape, calling it the “center of our American republic.” He acknowledged the concerns about the future of the institution due to multiple departures but expressed confidence that new leaders would emerge and guide the House through its next phase.
The departure of McHenry and others comes against the backdrop of political shifts and challenges within the Republican Party. The GOP has faced setbacks in recent elections, including fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Internal strife and disagreements, exemplified by the rebellion against McCarthy, have characterized the party’s dynamics. The GOP’s approval rating stands at 30%, with a disapproval rating of 66%, reflecting the challenges and divisions within the party.
As McHenry steps aside, questions loom over the fate of open seats in the upcoming election. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report identifies five open House seats as potential Democrat pickup opportunities, while none are listed for the GOP. The departures raise concerns about the party’s unity and ability to navigate the evolving political landscape.
With a total of 20 departing Democratic legislators and 10 Republicans, the changing composition of Congress adds complexity to the political dynamics leading up to the 2024 elections. As McHenry emphasizes a hopeful view of the House’s future, the evolving political landscape will determine the impact of these departures on the balance of power in Congress.
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