Several Republican senators say they will not attend the Republican National Convention to re-nominate President Trump in Jacksonville, Fla., in August.
So far, Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine are expected to skip the August 24 gathering, and there could be more. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who voted for Trump’s removal during the Senate impeachment trial, also won’t be there, according to an aide.
Grassley, 86, said on a call with local reporters on Monday he’ll miss the convention as a result of pandemic fears. He also noted it will mark the first time he won’t attend in 40 years.
“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” Grassley told the Des Moines Register and others.
This year’s Republican convention has faced a turbulent path. It was originally slated for Charlotte, N.C., but the bulk of it was moved last month to Jacksonville following Trump’s demands for fewer safety precautions from COVID-19. Official convention business will still be conducted in Charlotte.
Now, as pandemic cases spiral upwards in Florida and elsewhere, there are new calls to scale down the Florida event.
A statement from Alexander’s office didn’t directly point to coronavirus as a concern, but instead said that his spot should be used by someone else. Alexander is 80, and retiring from the Senate.
“Senator Alexander is an honorary chair of the Tennessee Trump campaign, but he will not be attending the convention because he believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had,” the statement said.
As for Collins, an aide said she’s skipping as part of a long-running tradition not to go during reelection years. Collins “never made plans to attend the convention because she has never attended the national convention in years when she is up for election,” the aide said. In 2016, Collins attended the convention despite saying she would not support President Trump.
Aides for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska could not immediately be reached. Last month, she said she wasn’t sure she could support Trump’s reelection.
Several other GOP offices contacted by NPR didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But aides said at least two key Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, plan to be there.
“The Leader has every intention of attending,” a McConnell aide said.