Legislators in both chambers approved a non-binding, largely symbolic resolution condemning President Donald Trump and his supporters over last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol after roughly an hour of debate in a vote that largely fell along party lines.
Two Republicans, State Sens. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) and Chris Brown (R-Ventnor City), crossed party lines to back the measure, which cleared the upper chamber in 24-4 with the remaining six lawmakers present at Monday’s in-person Senate session not voting. It cleared the Assembly 47-8 with 20 abstentions.
State Sens. Michael Testa (R-Vineland), Bob Singer (R-Lakewood), Michael Doherty (R-Oxford) and Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) were the only members who voted no. Testa and Pennacchio served as honorary co-chairs of Trump’s New Jersey re-election campaign.
State Sen. Kip Bateman (R-Neshanic Station), one of a handful of vulnerable legislators in the state, was absent from Monday’s in-person Senate session, saving him a from a vote that would’ve put him in a difficult position whichever way he broke.
Republican objections to the measure sponsored by State Sen. Ron Rice (D-Newark) differed wildly. Some took issue with the measure’s language, which charged Trump “consistently violated his constitutional oath” and “engaged in unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate abuse of Presidential powers.”
It also calls for Trump to resign or be removed from office.
“The language in this resolution goes too far, and while I condemn the actions of every one of those individuals who stormed our Capitol, I cannot in good conscience vote yes on this resolution,” Testa said.
Others veered into conspiracy. Doherty, arguably the state’s most conservative senator, aired many of the same false claims about the election Trump and his backers have launched over the past two months, including a more recent falsehood that claims Antifa, and not Trump supporters, were responsible for the assault on the Capitol.
Still others complained the resolution was inappropriate because the chamber did not pass similar measures after unrest seen during Black Lives Matter protests in summer.
“We saw Washington burning, a church across the street from the White House, burning. No resolution,” Pennacchio said, referring to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square.
A fire was set in the church’s basement on May 31, but such criticisms didn’t sit well with the chamber’s Democrats.
“There is no equal. We had a civil war in this country and the confederate flag didn’t make it to the Capitol,” Scutari said. “It did last week.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) went further than many of his conference members, condemning both the attack on the Capitol and the statements Trump made to incite it, but abstained on the resolution, though he did urge Trump to resign.
“I was dismayed by what the president said and the results thereafter. I condemn those statements,” he said. “I think he should leave office.”
Kean narrowly lost a bid for the seventh congressional district’s House seat to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) last year and may launch another bid in 2022.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg slammed the chamber’s Republicans for their objections, hammering some GOP members for engaging in “the proverbial whataboutism” and trafficking in repeatedly debunked conspiracies.
“Stand up and condemn the insurrection,” she said. “It was a wound to our democracy. If we can’t do that, we are failing the people of NJ.”
Correction: A previous version of this story said State Sen. James Beach (D-Voorhees) was the only Democrat present who did not vote in favor of the resolution. Beach did not attend Monday’s voting session. The New Jersey Globe regrets the error.