On Tuesday, forty-five Senate Republicans backed a futile attempt to stop the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, in a display of party unity that some cited as a strong indication that he would not be accused of inciting the Capitol uprising.
On the floor of the Senate, Republican Senator Rand Paul made a motion that would have forced the chamber to vote on whether Trump's February trial violated the US Constitution.
By a vote of 55-45, the Democratic-led Senate blocked the motion.
But, well short of the 17 Republicans who would need to vote to convict Trump on an impeachment charge that he incited the Jan 6 Capitol attack that left five people dead, only five Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in opposing the move.
"It's one of the few times in Washington that a loss is indeed a victory," Paul told reporters later.
"Forty-five votes mean that the impeachment trial is dead on arrival." Paul and other Republicans say that the hearings are illegal because last Wednesday, Trump left office and the trial will be supervised by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy rather than by the U.S. John Roberts, Chief Justice.
After not feeling well, Leahy, 80, was briefly hospitalized on Tuesday evening but was released after an examination, said his spokesman, David Carle, in a statement.
Some Republican senators who endorsed Paul's motion said their vote on Tuesday did not suggest how Trump's guilt or innocence could be brought down after a trial.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a totally different issue," Republican Senator Rob Portman told reporters.
After being sworn in as jurors for the impeachment hearing, the senators voted.
The Republican constitutional assertion was denied as "flat-out wrong" by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who moved to thwart Paul's motion, and claimed it would include "a constitutional get-out-of-jail-free card" for presidents guilty of wrongdoing.
There is a dispute among academics about whether, now that he has left office, the Senate will hold a trial for Trump.
Many academics have said that "late impeachment" is constitutional, claiming that presidents who commit crimes late in their terms should not be immune to the very mechanism of keeping them accountable set out in the Constitution.
The Constitution makes it clear that impeachment proceedings could in the future result in disqualification from holding office, so the Senate still has an active problem to address, the scholars said.