Several U.S. Senators are campaigning for their party's nomination for the general presidential election of 2020. The impeachment trial will start next week.

Are these Senators required to attend all the impeachment trial sessions? Will this effectively limit or suspend their nomination campaigns? What are the consequences if they do not attend the trial? Does recusal offer any form of relief?

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure there any formally mandated consequences for not attending. On the other hand:

Here are the guidelines for how senators are to conduct themselves during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, which is expected to begin Tuesday. They were put out by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

  • Senators should plan to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings.


  • Reading materials should be confined to only those readings which pertain to the matter before the Senate.

So the guidelines are that they should all be present and pay attention to the proceedings.

Interestingly, an article on the Heritage Foundation site mentions a related issue. [Senate] Rule XI, which

allows the appointment of a small number of Senators to operate as a trial committee to gather evidence and take testimony. The Senate has used trial committees on only three occasions in the 1980s to assist with fact-finding regarding impeachment articles approved by the House against three federal district judges. [...]

Rule XI was adopted as a response to poor attendance and preparation by Senators in impeachment trials in the early twentieth century. Yet even in the 1980s, some Senators claimed that they had not bothered to prepare before voting, and such proceedings diverted their energies away from legislative business of greater concern to their constituents.

Another article (alas in a tabloidish pro-Trump source) mentions that

“The senate collectively has the power to compel the attendance of absent senators and the Senate collectively acts by its majority and Mitch McConnell is the majority leader. So he has the ability,” former Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin said. “If push comes to shove, compelling means arresting. ”

(N.B. a "Senate parliamentarian" is an "official advisor to the United States Senate on the interpretation of Standing Rules of the United States Senate and parliamentary procedure.")

The article in question does not mention any precedents of this kind of compelling actually happening though. Actually, it later says:

Frumin, who served on the Senate floor as senior assistant parliamentarian during the Clinton trial, said there was no expectation at the time that senators needed to be present for every second of the event and he recalled regular attendance was “sparse.”

“They came and went. If you are envisioning a situation where during the trial, 100 senators are sitting at their desks in rapt attention — that didn’t happen,” he said.


No, there is no requirement for Senators to attend an Impeachment Trial, however only those in attendance are allowed to vote on the verdict. Conviction requires a 2/3rds majority (Rounded Up) of all Senators in attendance, not of all Senators overall, and additionally has no quorum requirements. If the two Senators in the Democrat Primary race feel it is more important to campaign rather than sit through the trial, that is their choice.

The threat is that both represent states where the population is more likely to favor a conviction and if they are not voting in favor of the Primary Races, it's likely that someone else will use that to their advantage when they are next up for election if they fail to secure the Nomination (both Senators are up for re-election in 2024, so this is likely not an issue as the country will have likely moved on from that, but there could be a threat of a primary challenger weaponizing this).

While they can come and go as they please, they do not control the scheduling of the vote and there may be a strategic play against them (hold the vote while they are on a campaign stop). That said, the threshhold, should both choose not to be there, is lowered to 66 votes, down one from 67 and a third missing person would lower this to 65 votes.

  • 2
    There are four Democratic Senators still in the race: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bennet. Two other Senators, Booker and Harris, have already dropped out.
    – BradC
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 21:43
  • 1
    "only those in attendance are allowed to vote on the verdict": can they skip the hearings and just show up for the vote, or is there some sort of minimum attendance requirement to be allowed to vote?
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 4:02

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