U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, tore into his Republican colleagues Wednesday in a speech on the Senate floor ahead of an anticipated vote by all but one GOP senator to acquit President Donald Trump.
"We are being asked to save the democracy. And we're going to fail that test today in the United States Senate," Bennet said, concluding remarks explaining his vote to convict Trump on charges the president abused his power and obstructed Congress.
Bennet, a candidate for president, said the House Democrats prosecuting the case against Trump had proven their case that he withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure the American ally into helping him politically by investigating Joe Biden, a chief Trump rival.
Hours after Bennet spoke, the Senate voted to acquit Trump on both counts, falling well short of the two-thirds majority required to remove the president from office. Utah Republican Mitt Romney was the only senator to break from his party, voting guilty on the charge of abuse of power.
"It clearly was wrong," Bennet said. "It clearly was unconstitutional. It clearly was impeachable. What president would run for office, saying to the American people, 'I’m going to try to extort a foreign power for my own electoral interests to interfere in our election'? It is exactly the kind of conduct that the impeachment clause was written for. It is a textbook case of what the impeachment clause exists."
But it was the Republican-controlled Senate's vote against calling witnesses that drew some of Bennet's harshest words.
"The idea that we would turn our back, close our eyes to evidence pounding on the outside of the doors of this Capitol is pitiful, it is disgraceful," he said, his voice rising. "And it will be a stain on this body for all time."
He added: "I don't know how anybody in this body goes home and faces their constituents and say we wouldn't even look at the evidence."
Bennet's Republican colleague from Colorado, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, was among the 51 GOP senators to vote last week against calling witnesses to testify in the Senate trial.
Bennet's remarks included arguments about the Senate he made a year ago in a floor speech that went viral and in a book he wrote that was released last summer.
The Senate, which he described as the "only body on planet Earth charged with the responsibility of dealing with the guilt or innocence of this president," turned out to be incapable of conducting a fair trial, Bennet said.
"We're too lazy for that. The reality is we're too broken for that. We are too broken for that. And we have failed in our duty to the American people."
Under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, Bennet said, the Senate has "become a body that it does nothing." The world's "greatest deliberative body," he added, has only passed eight amendments in the last year.
"Pathetic," Bennet said. "Pathetic."
He reserved his strongest condemnations for the Senate itself, saying that in the 10 years he's been a senator he's "seen this institution crumble into rubble, this institution become incapable of addressing the most existential questions of our time, that the next generation cannot address," citing education, immigration and climate change.
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican and chairman of the Colorado GOP, hailed the Senate for bringing an end to what he termed "[t]he Democrats’ partisan attempt to take down President Trump."
"I’m glad to see that the Senate has put this impeachment distraction behind us," said Buck, who ran unsuccessfully against Bennet in 2010.
"But lest we forget, Democrats have set a dangerous precedent by pushing a baseless impeachment inquiry through the House. They’ve set the bar so low for impeachment, that any future president could be impeached under these new standards."