SUBSCRIBE NOW

Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy votes with Democrats on first impeachment issue

Greg Hilburn
Monroe News-Star
U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy speaks to reporters after qualifying for reelection July 24, 2020.

Louisiana U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy was one of only six Republicans to join all 50 of his Democratic colleagues Tuesday to vote that the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is constitutional.

Fellow Louisiana Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy voted that the trial shouldn't move forward on the argument that it's unconstitutional to try a private citizen.

Trump's second impeachment trial began Tuesday with the vote on its constitutionality.

“We heard arguments from both sides on the constitutionality of having a Senate trial of a president who has since left office," Cassidy said in a statement. "A sufficient amount of evidence of constitutionality exists for the Senate to proceed with the trial."

Cassidy said his vote Tuesday doesn't signal that he will ultimately vote to impeach Trump.

"This vote is not a prejudgment on the final vote to convict,” Cassidy said. “If anyone disagrees with my vote and would like an explanation, I ask them to listen to the arguments presented by the House managers and former President Trump’s lawyers. The House managers had much stronger constitutional arguments. The president’s team did not.”

Cassidy quickly received criticism from some Republicans back home, including the Louisiana Republican Party.

"The Republican Party of Louisiana is profoundly disappointed by Sen. Bill Cassidy's vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial now underway against former president, now private citizen, Donald J. Trump," the state GOP said in a statement. "We feel that an impeachment trial of a private citizen is not only an unconstitutional act, but also an attack on the very foundation of American democracy, which will have far reaching and unforeseen consequences for our republic."

Louisiana Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Benton, a Trump loyalist who is part of the former president's House defense team, said he was "surprised" by Cassidy's vote.

"I have not spoken to him but I can tell you a lot of people from back home are calling me about it right now," Johnson told reporters at the Capitol.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.