NO.trump.011519.110.JPG

President Donald Trump speaks to, from left to right, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip Stephen Scalise, Sen. John Kennedy, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy and President of the American Farm Bureau Federation Zippy Duvall, after stepping off of Air Force One at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner, La. Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. President Trump visited New Orleans to deliver a speech at the Farm Bureau convention.

Louisiana’s two Republican U.S. senators split their vote Tuesday afternoon as the U.S. Senate rejected arguments that the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump was unconstitutional and voted to continue the proceedings on Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, joined five GOP senators who had previously voted that trial is constitutional. All 50 Democrats and the six Republicans found the arguments presented by lawyers of the former president unpersuasive and voted to continue the trial. Forty-four Republicans, including Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, voted that the trial is unconstitutional and should end.

Kennedy's Press Office said Wednesday the junior senator contends that the impeachment trial, in this case, isn't constitutional. Cassidy had said prior to trial that he would make his decisions based on the evidence presented.

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

If all 50 Democratic senators vote to convict, another 17 Republicans would need to join them to reach the two-thirds majority.

Former President Trump is accused of fomenting his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 in an apparent attempt to overturn election results. One article of impeachment is for "incitement of insurrection." For months, Trump repeatedly claimed his reelection was stolen without presenting evidence that would account for enough fraudulent votes to change the results. Lawyers for Trump say the charges are nothing but political theater.

The Republican Party of Louisiana announced it “is profoundly disappointed” with Cassidy’s position but saluted Kennedy for “remaining steadfast.”

“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,” said the unsigned statement by the party.

The House Democrats argued that not impeaching a president for actions taken during the end of his term would be tantamount to a free pass for an executive to do whatever he wanted before leaving office, including efforts to keep his power. They argued that the founders took notice of that possibility in writing the U.S. Constitution.

“I’m a juror,” Cassidy said before the trial began Tuesday.

He broke the trial down to three questions, the first one being whether it was constitutional to impeach somebody no longer in office. He voted yes later in the day.

The second question for Cassidy is whether impeachment is appropriate and for the good of the country. His third criteria is whether the president is guilty of the accusations.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.