Jose Luis Magana/AP/FILE
Sen. Tim Kaine speaks in Washington on June 8, 2023.
Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said Sunday “there’s a powerful argument to be made” for barring Donald Trump from the presidential ballot based on the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists holding public office.
“My sense is it’s probably going to get resolved in the courts,” Kaine said on “ABC This Week,” adding that Democrats’ focus should be on winning in 2024.
Legal experts have pointed to the 14th Amendment as a potential long-shot avenue to keep Trump from becoming president. The amendment includes a post-Civil War “disqualification clause” that bars anyone from holding public office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” The Constitution does not, however, spell out how to enforce this ban and it has only been applied twice since the late 1800s, when it was used extensively against former Confederates.
Election officials in battleground states, including attorneys general in Michigan and New Hampshire, have said they’re anticipating outside groups to file lawsuits on the matter, and are studying the legality of the provision and how it may disqualify Trump from appearing on ballots in their states.
Liberal activists have championed the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause and have already vowed to file suits to disqualify the former president, a tactic they have used against other elected officials to little success – though some prominent conservative legal scholars have recently endorsed the idea.
Kaine voiced support for the idea, saying, “The language (of the amendment) is specific: If you give aid and comfort to those who engage in an insurrection against the Constitution of the United States — it doesn’t say against the United States, it says against the Constitution. In my view, the attack on the Capitol that day was designed for a particular purpose … and that was to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power as is laid out in the Constitution.”
Kaine also said that he had discussed using the provision with fellow senators during Trump’s second impeachment in 2021, remarking that he thought it would “have been a more productive way to go to do a declaration under that section of the 14th Amendment.”
He floated the idea of a censure vote in Congress under the 14th Amendment as an alternative way of holding Trump accountable and keeping him from holding public office again after the Senate acquitted the former president in a failed impeachment vote. Seven GOP senators joined the chamber’s 50 Democratic and Independent members in finding Trump guilty of inciting a riot on January 6.
Kaine noted that Virginia will host its own races later this year to decide the makeup of its split legislature in an election that will act as a window into the state of politics in the battleground state ahead of next year’s presidential race.