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Old 10-08-2019, 03:02 PM
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"2/3 of the Senate" - votes cast, or merely votes "present?"


(A non-political, technical-only question):


As I understand it, Senators can choose to vote "present" on a bill - which is not the same as abstaining from voting, nor is it the same as voting yes or no.

So, suppose that Trump is impeached and the Senate now needs a 2/3 majority to remove him from office. If all the Republican senators abstained from voting, then there would only be 47 Democrats who would vote - and presumably, they would vote 47-0 to depose Trump, a unanimous vote. They would then successfully depose Trump, because 47/47 is 100% - which is far more than 67%.

But if all Republican senators decided to vote "present" instead, so that all of their votes "count" in the overall tally (not wanting to incur the political consequences of voting yes or no,) would that mean that Democrats fail, because the D's have to achieve a 67/100 majority, and they only get a 47/100 minority this way?

Last edited by Velocity; 10-08-2019 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 03:08 PM
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The rules. "Two thirds of the members present" is the wording.

As for voting "present", that is apparently not an option:
Quote:
The Presiding Officer shall first state the question; thereafter each Senator, as his name is called, shall rise in his place and answer: guilty or not guilty.
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Old 10-08-2019, 03:20 PM
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I'm pretty certain that an explicit abstention would also mean that the senator who abstained counts towards the denominator for the calculation of the two thirds criterion. If that is the case, then the practical consequences of abstaining and voting present would be the same - and, incidentally, it would also, in terms of practical result, come down to the same thing as voting no, since you need an affirmative vote of the two thirds present to carry the motion (in this case: Remove the President).

As a cite I would offer Rule XII of the Rules of the Senate, which offes three options for voting: Yea, nay, and decline to vote (which, as per the rules, requires permission from the Senate).

Edit: ElvisL1ves's cite of the ruels specifically for impeachment trials are more pertinent to this question than the general Rules of the Senate which I cite, so apparently you don't even have the option of abstaining with the permission of the Senate; you need to make a call of either "guilty" or "not guilty".
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Last edited by Schnitte; 10-08-2019 at 03:22 PM.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
The rules. "Two thirds of the members present" is the wording.
So wait a minute: Does "two thirds of the members present" really mean that if 35 Senators happened to have a doctor's appointment that day, that 43 votes would be enough to convict?

Obviously, the assumption is that all Senators would be present for such a momentous event. But if there were a number of Senators who privately favored conviction but didn't want to go on the record as voting for it, any absences would allow conviction with less than the 67 votes normally considered necessary? I hadn't realized that.

(I know, there isn't a snowball's chance, but....)
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:12 PM
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Under general parliamentary rules, if the vote requires a majority or 2/3 of those present (or all members) then an abstention (and to Velocity, "present" is an abstention) counts the same as a not guilty. Think of it this way. If you have 99 senators present then 66 need to vote guilty. Whether the other 33 vote "not guilty" or "present" the result is the same - they did not vote guilty.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
Under general parliamentary rules, if the vote requires a majority or 2/3 of those present (or all members) then an abstention (and to Velocity, "present" is an abstention) counts the same as a not guilty. Think of it this way. If you have 99 senators present then 66 need to vote guilty. Whether the other 33 vote "not guilty" or "present" the result is the same - they did not vote guilty.
But is 51 members still the quorum? So if only 51 Senators show up, and 2/3 of them (i.e. 34 Senators) vote yes, that's enough?
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:23 PM
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But is 51 members still the quorum? So if only 51 Senators show up, and 2/3 of them (i.e. 34 Senators) vote yes, that's enough?
If this were the case, it seems that Republican senators could prevent an impeachment-conviction vote from ever happening by simply all refusing to show up. There are 53 Rs and 47 Ds and the 47 Ds in and of themselves couldn't get to a 51-seat quorum.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
If this were the case, it seems that Republican senators could prevent an impeachment-conviction vote from ever happening by simply all refusing to show up. There are 53 Rs and 47 Ds and the 47 Ds in and of themselves couldn't get to a 51-seat quorum.
Well, they can only prevent it from ever happening by refusing ever to show up. Which, yeah, will prevent an impeachment from happening but will also prevent anything else from happening, which may be severely politically disadvantageous, not least to the Trump administration which could then get no legislation enacted. If the 'Pubs feel that strongly about it, it's probably easier just to vote against conviction, rather than paralyse the Senate indefinitely.
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Old 10-09-2019, 09:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
If this were the case, it seems that Republican senators could prevent an impeachment-conviction vote from ever happening by simply all refusing to show up. There are 53 Rs and 47 Ds and the 47 Ds in and of themselves couldn't get to a 51-seat quorum.
Which would trigger a quorum call and the Senators not excused by the presiding officer (in this case the CJotUS) would be arrested and dragged into the chambers.
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Old 10-09-2019, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by UDS View Post
Well, they can only prevent it from ever happening by refusing ever to show up. Which, yeah, will prevent an impeachment from happening but will also prevent anything else from happening, which may be severely politically disadvantageous, not least to the Trump administration which could then get no legislation enacted. If the 'Pubs feel that strongly about it, it's probably easier just to vote against conviction, rather than paralyse the Senate indefinitely.
Probably getting debate-y here, but what has the Senate actually worked on? They don't appear to have passed any legislation this term.
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Old 10-09-2019, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Folacin View Post
Probably getting debate-y here, but what has the Senate actually worked on? They don't appear to have passed any legislation this term.
Moderating

Let's stick to the specific question in the OP and not sidetrack this into other discussions.

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Old 10-09-2019, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
But is 51 members still the quorum? So if only 51 Senators show up, and 2/3 of them (i.e. 34 Senators) vote yes, that's enough?
A quick scan of the rules posted in the second post didn't indicate the quorum rules were different for impeachment trials.
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Old 10-09-2019, 09:48 AM
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Congressional Research Service memo on the Impeachment Process, updated 2005. Six easy to read pages, lots of cites.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
But is 51 members still the quorum? So if only 51 Senators show up, and 2/3 of them (i.e. 34 Senators) vote yes, that's enough?
Yes, however Rule XIII allows any Senator who didn't vote or who voted on the prevailing side to move for reconsideration of the question within two days of actual session. This motion is decided upon with a majority vote.

Also note that under Rule VI, a majority of the Senators present may compel the attendance of any absent Senators. In your situation with 51 Senators and 34 Democrats, at least 9 Democrats must be unwilling to join a motion to compel the attendance of missing Senators.

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 10-09-2019 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 10-09-2019, 12:31 PM
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Those talking about absent members, it is illegal for a congress member to not attend a session without permission of the presiding officer and can compel absent members to attend. I doubt Roberts would excuse any Senator except under dire circumstances.
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Old 10-15-2019, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves View Post
The rules. "Two thirds of the members present" is the wording.

As for voting "present", that is apparently not an option:

The Presiding Officer shall first state the question; thereafter each Senator, as his name is called, shall rise in his place and answer: guilty or not guilty.
Although, in Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in the Senate, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penna.) voted "Not proved," as permitted under Scottish law. Chief Justice Rehnquist ordered it noted in the Senate record as "Not guilty."
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Old 10-16-2019, 03:41 PM
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Well, they can only prevent it from ever happening by refusing ever to show up. Which, yeah, will prevent an impeachment from happening but will also prevent anything else from happening...
Just a reminder: Impeachment is an indictment, a bringing of charges ('offenses') to be tried. By the time the Senate trial commences, impeachment is over. The Senate vote will be whether or not to convict Tramp on the charges and thus remove him from office.

The process: The House of Representatives investigates and votes to impeach (indict). The Senate, presided by CJOTUS Roberts, holds trial on the presented charges. The trial is NOT a criminal process but is entirely political. Prosecutors can bring criminal charges after Tramp's removal -- assuming Tramp can be physically dragged from the Oval Office. But that's another topic.

GOPs can't prevent impeachment, only conviction and removal.
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Old 10-16-2019, 04:06 PM
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Let's just take it as a given that when people say things like "Republicans in the Senate can prevent impeachment", they mean "Republicans in the Senate can prevent any practical implications of impeachment".


[Moderating]
And this is the forum for facts. Factually, the name of the current President is "Trump", not "Tramp". Distorting names for partisan reasons is inappropriate for GQ.
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