TRENTON — The state Legislature voted Monday for a resolution that “strongly condemns President Trump and his extremist supporters” who attacked the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday and urges that Trump resign or be removed from office.
The resolution passed the Senate 24-4 and the Assembly 47-8 with 20 votes to abstain. It is nonbinding, obviously. Copies will be transmitted to the president and vice president, leaders of Congress and the 14 members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation.
Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, said the country can’t simply move on from the Capitol violence because “unity is impossible without accountability.”
“Calling for unity after attempts to overturn a duly certified election, upheld by every court in this land, and amplify the very lies that led a mob of insurrectionists to sack our nation’s Capitol, to inure those who will have inflamed the fires that led to the events of Jan. 6 but dare to walk away from the gaze of accountability because some make pleas for unity, those words ring hollow because unity without accountability is nothing,” Singleton said.
Some Republicans described the events at the Capitol as atrocious and unlawful, a disgrace and an insult. But ultimately just two Republican legislators in either chamber voted for the resolution: Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, and Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth.
“This resolution is not simply damning the loathsome criminal acts,” said Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cumberland. “It is magnifying the polarizing rhetoric that threatens the very fabric of our republic. The language contained in this resolution simply goes too far.”
“This is unbelievable to argue over these words,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “I get it with party – you know, listen. You can’t defend this. It happened. The Confederate flag in our Capitol. You saw those police officers getting beat up.
“No, I’m not excusing that,” he said. “You cannot get away with saying the words on this resolution is wrong. Donald Trump did this. And if he had his way, he would have overthrown that election. And anyone who thinks he won has got to have their head examined.”
The legislation set off lengthy debates, particularly in the Senate, where things got more heated.
“May not be your opinion, but it’s my opinion,” said Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex. “If he was born a different time in a different country, he would have been Hitler’s best friend.”
“We see this resolution – and I’ll be brief – as an attack on my president, our president,” said Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris.
Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren, said he “wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people who were tearing down the Capitol weren’t Trump supporters,” citing a hammer and sickle tattoo on the hands of a rioter. It’s actually a symbol from a video game, not the communist symbol.
“I am telling you, you are putting people in a situation with the censorship, with the denigrating them, with destroying their heritage and history, you are moving us into a corner. And it’s not going to be a good result for this country,” Doherty said.
The debate was more measured in the Assembly, which met virtually by phone.
“If you want to do something like this, we really need to take an accounting of everybody who’s contributed to the angst and violence in our country and put them all out on the carpet and not just the president of the United States,” said Assemblyman Bob Auth, R-Bergen.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said he had hoped for a bipartisan rebuke of the violence at the Capitol. Instead, he said, the resolution was a partisan one provided just 15 minutes before the session began.
“Unfortunately, this has become a resolution drafted only by Democrats, and it actually finds the president violated his constitutional oath consistently,” Bramnick said. “Now even if that’s true, no hearing, no opportunity to be heard, nothing.”
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Camden, noted that even Republican former Gov. Chris Christie said over the weekend that Trump had committed impeachable offenses. He said the violence was based on lies about the election and the culmination of four years of chipping away at democracy.
“My emotions have not settled, but I have never been more clear of thought,” Greenwald said. “This is something that is necessary to do to send a signal that this behavior under any president of any party at any time or any leader is never acceptable.”
“This action exposed serious flaws in our democracy, where one man, one dangerous man with a cell phone could try to overthrow our government,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union. “Because that’s exactly what this was. This was an attempted coup by the executive over the legislative branch.”
Sen. Bob Singer, R-Ocean, joined Doherty, Pennacchio and Testa in voting against the resolution. The eight Assembly members who voted no were Auth; Brian Bergen, R-Morris; John Catalano, R-Ocean; Sean Kean, R-Monmouth; Antwan McClellan, R-Cape May; Greg McGuckin, R-Ocean; Erik Simonsen, R-Cape May; and Ned Thomson, R-Monmouth.