Let's assume for a second that the House votes to impeach Trump. This only takes a simple majority, something that they might be able to achieve, depending on how serious the Ukraine allegations turn out to be.

In order for Trump to be removed from office, 2/3 of Senators need to vote for it. Since the Republicans hold a majority, this is unlikely to happen, unless some sufficiently disturbing facts come to light to overcome party lines. For the purposes of this question, let's say there are no widespread Republican defections in the Senate and that the Republican senators still mostly support Trump when impeachment is referred to them.

From the point of view of Republicans, given that the outcome would then be predetermined by the hurdle of the 2/3 majority, one might assume that the quicker the procedure can be voted and rejected in the Senate, the better. The Democrats may very well take the opposite tack and wish to have this on the news as long as possible.

So, my question is: given their slight majority, what is the quickest way for the Republican leadership in the Senate to dismiss impeachment proceedings, if it gets that far? Is there a minimum duration and ceremonies to be respected before the whole thing can be put to a vote and rejecting it? Since it is constructed as a trial, it seems there would be certain minimum investigations to be carried out.

Besides the normal and accepted ways to streamline the procedures to vote ASAP, are there possible "nuclear options" - something a bit like PM Boris Johnson tried to do by (unsuccessfully) proroguing the UK Parliament, that speed things up even more but would carry the risk of scandal to the voters?

  • 3
    If they feel that Trump could be a liability, nationally, down-ballot (state elections in a census year cycle), etc, and he won't be running against someone with the negatives of a Hillary Clinton, would they WANT to derail that process? Imagine if they jump on board and dump him for someone without his polarizing negatives and ran on "we're the party of principles. Democrats would never have done what was right if it was one of their own." So that assumption that Trump staying in power being the desired option might not be a given.Senators in states that are not hard-red resent defending him. Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 21:57
  • As to the close requests - this is question is specifically requesting information on the procedures that US law has set out, should the matter of impeachment get referred to the Senate. I am not asking for opinions, simply for what the existing legal framework stipulates. @divibisan has managed to answer pretty well within that context and so has Fizz. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 0:03
  • Suppose the impeachment reaches the Senate. It will most likely be stopped there since, as already mentioned, republicans hold a majority in the senate. The democrats and liberals will be angry at the outcome, claiming the republicans defended one of their own, while Trump will continue with the narrative that it's a witch hunt. I believe this outcome is fairly obvious to anyone. So the entire impeachment procedure might just be a tool to make Trump less popular in order to make the presidential election easier for the democratic candidate.
    – user25110
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 1:36

4 Answers 4


The New York Times article How the Impeachment Process Works covers most of this. The Constitution does not lay out any set rules for Impeachment. Instead, the Senate itself writes and votes on the rules that will govern the impeachment proceedings:

What are the rules for a Senate trial?

There are no set rules. Rather, the Senate passes a resolution first laying out trial procedures. ...

So there is no minimum duration or required ceremonies. It's even unclear whether they have to hold a trial at all, or whether the Senate could just ignore Impeachment:

Is the Senate obligated to hold a trial?

The Constitution clearly envisions that if the House impeaches a federal official, the next step is for the Senate to hold a trial. But there is no obvious enforcement mechanism if Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, were to simply refuse to convene one — just as he refused to permit a confirmation hearing and vote on Mr. Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016.

Still Walter Dellinger, a Duke University law professor and a former acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, said it is unclear whether it would be Mr. McConnell or Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. who wields the authority to convene the Senate for the purpose of considering House-passed articles of impeachment.

Either way, though, he noted that the Republican majority in the Senate could vote to immediately dismiss the case without any consideration of the evidence if it wanted.

Ultimately, the only restriction is public opinion and electoral politics. Making the Impeachment trial disappear as quickly as possible might be helpful, but it also carries risks: if would make it look like they're trying to cover something up and would implicate the Senate GOP in Trump's actions. How bad this is depends on how many people (in the relevant states) think that this scandal is a big deal.

Ultimately, if Senator McConnell and at least 50 Republican Senators believe that it is in their best interests to ignore the matter, it is within their power to do so. They may also find it valuable to distance themselves from Trump, or feel the need to try to thread the needle by showing independence while still trying to minimize the damage to Trump. What they choose will end up coming down to the ability of House Democrats to convince the American people that this is a serious matter that the Senate cannot ignore.

Update: on CNBC today, Senator McConnell has reportedly stated that he believes that he has no choice but to take up Impeachment should the House vote on Articles of Impeachment. While he could certainly change his mind in the future, the fact that he's making this statement publicly suggests that he might not be interested in completely ignoring Impeachment:

McConnell on CNBC: Senate rules require him to take up impeachment conviction question if House theoretically impeaches President Trump.

"I would have no choice but to take it up"

@burgessev - https://twitter.com/burgessev/status/1178695136093638662

  • 2
    It is also within the Senate's authority to consider the evidence and find the president not guilty. If this reaches the Senate, that is the most likely course, as it would involve a public examination of the evidence. There is a difference between reading a MSNBC story, and looking at all facts.
    – tj1000
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 18:11
  • 1
    @tj1000 of course, there are many things that could happen, but that’s not what the question is about. The question is asking the quickest possible way to end the impeachment trial
    – divibisan
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 20:22
  • If I could, I'd upvote this twice-- there was speculation for a while that Senator McConnell could (and likely would) simply ignore any articles of impeachment brought before him and refuse to hold a vote. Now we have a definite answer to that question. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 18:47

I'll just quote this because I think it's an amusing variant of the gridlock, namely the shuttlecock:

In the late stages of the John Tyler presidency, as the White House and the Senate were at complete loggerheads, the Senate had no interest in confirming the president’s nominees for any office of any significance. Describing the “want of concord” between the White House and the Senate, one senator later recorded that “nominations and rejections flew backwards and forwards as in a game of shuttlecock.” Tyler would sometimes nominate the same individual after he had already been rejected, leading the Senate to reject him again “within the same hour.” If a president can sit in a Senate anteroom scribbling the same name over and over again on a scrap of paper only to have it repeatedly rejected, it is at least imaginable that a similarly stubborn House might repeatedly vote articles of impeachment against an officer even as the Senate refused to budge in its view that the officer was not guilty of any impeachable offenses. If articles of impeachment were ever to fly backwards and forwards between the House and the Senate as in a game of shuttlecock, it is easy to imagine that the Senate would dispense with the necessity of holding a trial each time before informing the House that the charges had not been sustained by the necessary two-thirds majority.

It does highlight what are some risks of the Senate shutting down the process. The article (by Princeton prof Keith Whittington) has many more minutia of what can happen in various other scenarios in which the Senate refuses to hear or shuts down the trial. It's a lot more complicated (and debatable) what can happen, for instance, if the Senate votes to just delay the hearings. It is certainly allowed by the Constitution:

Should a constitutionally conscientious senator ever agree to table or significantly delay an impeachment trial? The text of the Constitution does create some space for that kind of hardball. The Constitution says that the Senate “shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments,” and provides some directions on what should happen when the Senate is “sitting for that Purpose,” but the Senate is empowered to have a trial, not mandated to have a trial. If the Senate wants to take action against an officer, it would need to go through the constitutionally specified process of holding a trial, but if the Senate is content to allow an officer to remain in place it is not clear that the Senate needs to follow any particular procedure.

  • 2
    That's a fascinating anecdote! Thanks for posting that. It also gives me some comfort that our current dysfunction is not wholly original!
    – divibisan
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 22:22

[W]hat is the quickest way for the Republican leadership in the Senate to dismiss impeachment proceedings, if it gets that far?

The timing of the start of the trial is fixed in Senate rules.


I. Whensoever the Senate shall receive notice from the House of Representatives that managers are appointed on their part to conduct an impeachment against any person and are directed to carry articles of impeachment to the Senate, the Secretary of the Senate shall immediately inform the House of Representatives that the Senate is ready to receive the managers for the purpose of exhibiting such articles of impeachment, agreeably to such notice.

II. When the managers of an impeachment shall be introduced at the bar of the Senate and shall signify that they are ready to exhibit articles of impeachment against any person, the Presiding Officer of the Senate shall direct the Sergeant at Arms to make proclamation, who shall, after making proclamation, repeat the following words, viz: ‘‘All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against ——— ———’’; after which the articles shall be exhibited, and then the Presiding Officer of the Senate shall inform the managers that the Senate will take proper order on the subject of the impeachment, of which due notice shall be given to the House of Representatives.

III. Upon such articles being presented to the Senate, the Senate shall, at 1 o’clock afternoon of the day (Sunday excepted) following such presentation, or sooner if ordered by the Senate, proceed to the consideration of such articles and shall continue in session from day to day (Sundays excepted) after the trial shall commence (unless otherwise ordered by the Senate) until final judgment shall be rendered, and so much longer as may, in its judgment, be needful. ...

Under rule III, the trial begins at 1 o'clock on the day following the delivery of the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

After the Chief Justice is seated, a Senator could call for a vote on the articles under rule VII. The CJ rules, then some Member of the Senate shall ask that a formal vote be taken thereon, in which case it shall be submitted to the Senate for decision without debate. A majority1 voting to proceed to voting on the articles of impeachment avoids all the presentation of evidence and the questioning of witnesses.

VII. The Presiding Officer of the Senate shall direct all necessary preparations in the Senate Chamber, and the Presiding Officer on the trial shall direct all the forms of proceedings while the Senate is sitting for the purpose of trying an impeachment, and all forms during the trial not otherwise specially provided for. And the Presiding Officer on the trial may rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to, questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence and incidental questions, which ruling shall stand as the judgment of the Senate, unless some Member of the Senate shall ask that a formal vote be taken thereon, in which case it shall be submitted to the Senate for decision without debate; or he may at his option, in the first instance, submit any such question to a vote of the Members of the Senate. Upon all such questions the vote shall be taken in accordance with the Standing Rules of the Senate.

Each of the articles of impeachment are presented for a vote under rule XXIII.

XXIII. An article of impeachment shall not be divisible for the purpose of voting thereon at any time during the trial. Once voting has commenced on an article of impeachment, voting shall be continued until voting has been completed on all articles of impeachment unless the Senate adjourns for a period not to exceed one day or adjourns sine die. On the final question whether the impeachment is sustained, the yeas and nays shall be taken on each article of impeachment separately; and if the impeachment shall not, upon any of the articles presented, be sustained by the votes of two-thirds of the Members present, a judgment of acquittal shall be entered; ...

If at least 34 Senators vote "not guilty" on each of the articles, the trial is completed.

Is there a minimum duration and ceremonies to be respected before the whole thing can be put to a vote and rejecting it?

See above with regard to timing of the start. The total time would depend on the number of articles and the time allotted for each roll call vote.

During the impeachment trial of President Clinton, there was a motion to dismiss. While the trial began on January 7 (the articles were delivered January 6), the motion to dismiss was not considered until January 25. There was at least that much time used for other business (ceremonies, if you like,) before beginning the consideration of the articles.

1 Necessary assumption. If 60 votes are required, Republicans cannot control the proceeding.


Senate Republicans are considering immediate dismissal of impeachment of President Trump based upon that the House’s actions were defective on procedural grounds.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Wednesday he will introduce a resolution condemning the House process, and he’s urging the Senate to quickly dismiss any articles of impeachment instead of holding a weeks-long trial.

“In my view, if this process continues, there’s not a formal inquiry … then that would be illegitimate,” Graham said, referring to the House’s reluctance to hold a formal impeachment inquiry vote.

“Here’s the point of the resolution: Any impeachment vote based on this process, to me, is illegitimate, is unconstitutional, and should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial,” Graham said.

This strategy could take just a few minutes after receiving the motion from the House.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said it isn’t clear to him if senators can bring up the vote but “if the articles don’t come up with any evidence, I suppose we could do that.”

“I could see a scenario where there’s no evidence to even support what they’ve done, and perhaps at that point a motion to dismiss would be in order and we do,” he added.

Such motions need but a majority to pass, and a similar motion to dismiss was voted upon during the Clinton impeachment.

  • Yeah, this has been suggested as a possibility. Surprisingly, though, McConnell has been pretty consistent about how they are going to have to hold a trial (not a long one, mind you). Maybe he’s worried that totally ignoring impeachment will lose him control of the Senate next year? Who knows what he’ll do if it comes to this, though …
    – divibisan
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 19:23
  • @divibisan Pressed if he would support a quick dismissal, McConnell demurred, arguing that “there are all kinds of potentials.”
    – user9790
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 19:56
  • Here he tells republicans to prepare for a trial lasting from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I have no idea what he’ll do (I assumed he’d do what you suggest) but maybe the calculus is more complicated now. Or maybe he’s just laying a trap. Who knows? washingtonpost.com/politics/…
    – divibisan
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 21:27
  • 1
    @divisiban I don't think anyone knows, even Mitch, what come next
    – user9790
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 21:38
  • the thing about the inquiry vote is that the formal procedure talks about 1 vote: the "exit" one in the House to refer impeachment to the Senate for trial. it doesn't talk about 1+1. but, yes, that apparently cuts both ways too: if loose formal rules allow the House leeway, then that works for the Senate as well. end of the day, impeaching a sitting Head of State should be hard, otherwise you risk institutionalized instability which is far worse than a temporary unsavory leader who can be removed at next elections. Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 19:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .