Happening Right Now: Senate Considers Porteous Impeachment

by Hans A. von Spakovsky

For those who followed the impeachment hearing of U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous conducted by the Senate Impeachment Trial Committee, his Senate trial begins today and is being broadcast live on C-Span now (watch here). The Senate will be operating like a court of law, with counsel for Judge Porteous making arguments on behalf of his client, and the House managers arguing the prosecutor’s case. The senators will have the findings of the committee before them for review.

A number of motions have been filed, including several to dismiss various articles of impeachment. The senators will have to vote on these, with only a majority vote needed to grant or dismiss.

Business is usually conducted in a mostly empty Senate, but the impeachment floor trial cannot proceed without an actual quorum present, which means the very unusual sight of an almost full Senate chamber. Senators will have to submit any questions they want asked of the parties in writing to the presiding officer, who will ask the question. After the motions have been decided, the arguments have been made, and all questions have been asked, the senators will vote “guilty” or “not guilty” on each article of impeachment (except perhaps for the outgoing senator from Pennsylvania, who might cite Scottish law and vote “not proven” as he did on a more famous occasion). A two-thirds vote is required for conviction under the Constitution.

In an e-mail to the Senate, Derron Parks, the staff director and chief counsel for the Impeachment Trial Committee, said that in the last three judicial impeachment trials, “virtually all Senators were present for the full trial on the floor, in spite of the non-glitzy and somewhat inconvenient nature of the proceedings.”

This should be quite a historic event, since it will be only the 13th full impeachment trial of a judge in American history.