I know it would take a 2/3rds majority vote in the Senate to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. But what if a substantial number of Senators boycotted the trial, and declined to vote at all? Would it just take 2/3rds of the actual voting Sentators to convict? Or is it the absolute number of yes votes that makes the difference?

Would it change things at all if the Senator was present, and voted "present" instead of casting a vote one way or another for conviction?

1 Answer 1


The precise wording in the Constitution (with emphasis added) is:

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

This means that a Senator who is in the Chamber who does not vote, effectively votes not to convict.

However, if a Senator is not present, this may reflect the 2/3 requirement. If one Senator is absent, then it reduces the number of votes required to convict from 67 to 66.

  • 13
    +1 I recently read an article suggesting this would be an way for GOP senators to avoid voting to convict Trump while allowing him to be convicted.
    – JimmyJames
    Feb 10, 2021 at 22:17
  • 2
    I would say that not being present is a vote to convict, because it lowers the threshold of how many votes are needed to convict, thereby making it easier for everyone else.
    – Bobson
    Feb 10, 2021 at 23:24
  • 1
    @DavidHammen: If I recall correctly, Senators are called for their votes alphabetically. Any who do not answer on their turn may be called again after the entire list has been run, but in any case a Senator may cast his vote up until the vote is closed, which the speaker may do at discretion after a mandatory 15 minute wait. Senators who are present may choose to abstain, in which case they are counted towards establishing quorum but not towards the total vote count. Feb 11, 2021 at 6:18
  • 9
    @Bobson it's 2/3 of a vote to convict: say it's 66/99 to convict. 3 go missing, it's now 64/96, so those 3 were effectively casting 2 votes.
    – obscurans
    Feb 11, 2021 at 8:09
  • 4
    @gnasher729 The entire GOP caucus would have to be absent in order to dip below quorum.
    – Joe C
    Feb 11, 2021 at 12:55

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