A follow-up to this question.


The House has passed articles of impeachment but at present is refusing to transmit them to the Senate or appoint impeachment managers. The effect of this decision is to forestall the impeachment process in the Senate. Further, the Speaker has stated she will not transmit the articles until the Senate passes rules for the trial that are "fair," in her sole judgment.

As a practical matter, this move seems to be an attempt by the House to usurp some of the power of the Senate that is not provisioned by the Constitution and, accordingly, use that power as leverage to influence the Senate's internal negotiations over the rules of the Senate trial.


Can the Senate impose a deadline for the House to sufficiently act on the articles including proper transmission to the Senate and appointment of proper impeachment managers to prosecute the Senate trial or, if the deadline is missed, declare the articles "null and void" as far as the Senate is concerned?

2 Answers 2


The Senate can do whatever 2/3rds of it can agree to do

This idea that the articles of impeachment must be transmitted is not actually based in the Constitution, but in the rules that the House and Senate have made for themselves for handling impeachments. The Senate can change those rules if a supermajority of Senators agree to do so.

Indeed, one such way out of a current delay is to simply get rid of the entire idea of “transmittal” of the articles, and simply say that the vote that was held on them for everyone in the country to watch on television is sufficient to establish that the House impeached the President and that the Senate may start the trial however it chooses to.

This is not likely to happen because it would require votes from Democratic Senators, who will likely insist on other rules changes that Republicans will not want. But nothing in the Constitution stops it from happening; the Constitution is largely silent on these minor procedural details.

  • 1
    A good answer, but I believe you have a small mistake. As of 2013, the Senate may modify their procedures with a simple majority: fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42929.pdf That being said, they would need a supermajority to overcome a filibuster seeking to block the resolution-- and I'd be floored if the Democrats did not seek to filibuster. Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 13:03
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    It seems more likely that publication in the journal would be the trigger rather than the televised vote.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 13:34
  • @phoog Probably, but they can pick anything they want
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 14:01
  • I suppose they can, but if it isn't published it arguably doesn't exist. In which case there's no point in having a trial. In any event, it would make more sense for the senate to impose deadlines after which they would dismiss the impeachment than it would to have a trial without house managers.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 16:04

As long as the articles aren't delivered to the Senate, the process hasn't completed. Technically, Trump is only impeached once the articles have been delivered.

There is no ground for the Senate to impose any deadline. The House can take as long as it wants for its processes - the Senate has no saying in this. Just like the House has no saying in how the Senate will handle the trial. Both Chambers determine their own procedures.

If the House never delivers the articles, they become null and void when a new House is elected. This is the default case for all unfinished business. So that's a natural deadline.

  • Does the president not have the right to a speedy trial? Does political bureaucracy override constitutional rights?
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 10:06
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    @Richard Impeachment isn't a trial, though it doesn't proclude a trial from happening after. Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 10:58
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    Unfortunately, the opinion piece you link to is deeply flawed: the author does not understand the difference between future tense and infinitive nor between the past tense and the passive voice or participial adjective. Furthermore, the assertion that the articles must be sent to the senate to complete the impeachment is belied by the assertion that only the senate has the power to decide whether the senate is conducting a fair trial. The second assertion is correct, and that means that the senate also has the power to decide whether the impeachment has been properly effected.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 13:10
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    @mariomario impeachment is what happens in the house, and that is indeed not a trial. What happens in the senate is, however, a trial, which is why the constitution says that the senate has the sole power to "try" impeachments.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 13:13
  • @Richard the sixth amendment applies only to "criminal prosecutions," not to impeachment trials. Because the senate has the sole power to try impeachments, it also is the sole arbiter of whether there is a right to a speedy trial in an impeachment, of the conditions under which any such right has been breached, and of the consequences of any such breach.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 13:19

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