How the Senate Will Handle Impeachment Proceedings Should It Come to the Chamber

Posted: Jan 09, 2021 2:25 PM
How the Senate Will Handle Impeachment Proceedings Should It Come to the Chamber

Source: AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

House Democrats are pushing for the impeachment of President Donald Trump for the rioting that took place on Capitol Hill last week. They plan to introduce Articles of Impeachment against the president next week, accusing him of "incitement of insurrection."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly circulated a memo amongst Republicans about how a potential impeachment trial would work. Even if the House passes their Articles of Impeachment next week, proceedings wouldn't begin until Jan. 19, just one day before Trump is set to leave office, The Washington Post reported.

The Senate isn't scheduled to conduct any official business until Jan. 19. There will be two pro-forma sessions – short sessions where very little business actually takes place – on Jan. 12 and 15. The only way Articles of Impeachment could be entertained on those days is if all 100 senators are in agreement. Unanimous consent is very, very unlikely.

“Again, it would require the consent of all 100 Senators to conduct any business of any kind during the scheduled pro forma sessions prior to January 19, and therefore the consent of all 100 Senators to begin acting on any articles of impeachment during those sessions,” the memo reportedly stated.

According to the memo, impeachment proceedings wouldn't begin until after Trump is out of office, should Democrats decide to go that route. 

From WaPo:

  • On Jan. 19, the Senate would receive a message from the House that it has appointed impeachment managers, and that the Senate would be ready to receive it.
  • On Jan. 19 or 20, the House impeachment managers would exhibit the articles.
  • On Jan. 20 or 21, the Senate would proceed to consideration of the impeachment articles at 1 p.m., and officially begin the trial. McConnell’s memo noted that the “Senate trial would therefore begin after President Trump’s term has expired — either one hour after its expiration on January 20, or twenty-five hours after its expiration on January 21.”

The other part that's puzzling: would Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts have to be present during an impeachment trial? He's required to be there, by law, for a sitting president. But what happens when a past president is being impeached?

In other words: an impeachment trial at this point in the game is useless. Not all 100 senators are going to agree to it. The proceedings would begin after Trump is already gone. It would be a big distraction for incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and whatever the Biden administration hopes to accomplish.