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Kudos to The Federalist’s David Marcus for an excellent post on the 5 Reasons A Senate Trial Would Be A Nightmare for Democrats. As a former Secretary of the US Senate who is pretty familiar with Senate procedure, I’d like to add a possible sixth: Blocking a “unanimous consent request” or “motion to proceed” to a Senate trial, if permitted under a more expert reading of the rules.
A procedure crafted in the 1950s and first used by the legendary former Senate Majority Leader (and US President) Lyndon Johnson, it always takes unanimous consent – or at least 60 votes to end debate in the 100-member chamber – to proceed to legislation. Thanks to the infamous “Reid Rule,” the 60-vote threshold has been removed for presidential nominations. Any Senator’s power to object to a UC is one very big difference between the House and Senate and gives individual Senators great power.
But for the Senate to proceed to an impeachment trial, the Majority Leader may ask for unanimous consent or could propound a “motion to proceed” to the Senate trial. Most recently, then-Majority Leader Trent Lott did that on the first day of a new Congress in Jan. 6, 1999, for the impeachment trial of one William Jefferson Clinton. No one objected. Obviously, Lott and his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), along with their colleagues, had worked out the procedure in advance, greatly assisted by Senate rules adopted 13 years earlier. Those rules detail the procedure for a trial, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is highly unlikely to deviate from them without strong bipartisan support. And to be clear, some experts believe those 1986 rules require that the Senate must go to trial upon receipt of the House’s impeachment resolution with no intervening mischief.