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The current make up of the congress could potentially lead to a situation where the House was able to draft, and pass articles of impeachment against the sitting president. However, the Senate is currently composed of members that are not likely to support action against the current president. If that happened, could they simply be ignored by Senate leadership? If that happened would the articles expire at or before the end of the current Congress, or would those articles still be awaiting action when the next congress is instilled in 2015? Or can the the Senate call a simple take some action by simple majority to quash the articles?

So my question is:

If the House were to pass articles of impeachment, is there any law that would require that the articles actually be addressed by the Senate?

  • 1
    The articles would definitely expire at the end of the 113th Congress, however, since the Chief Justice presides, I think he would set the timeline for deliberations and open trial. Regardless of who has control of the Senate though, 67 votes are needed to convict, so you would need substantial support from both parties regardless. – Michael Kingsmill Feb 8 '13 at 16:05
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After passing articles of impeachment the House of Representatives' role is not done. During the trial in the Senate the House collectively becomes "managers" of the trial and act as the plaintiff in a more traditional trial setting. After voting on the articles they are introduced in the Senate by the House of Representatives, not a Senator. This means that the Senate does not have control over the timeline for the original motion. In fact, they don't even get to control when the House presents the articles to the Senate (that is controlled by the Secretary of the Senate and happens automatically).

From Senate Impeachment 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 said 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 so 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. Before proceeding to the consideration of the articles of impeachment, the presiding officer shall administer the oath hereafter provided to the members of the Senate then present, and to the other members of the Senate as they shall appear, whose duty it shall be to take the same.

Once the motion is made in the Senate, the Chief Justice is automatically called upon and sworn in as the presiding officer of the impeachment trial. During the trial of Andrew Johnson articles were passed on February 29th in the House, introduced on March 4th in the Senate and the Chief Justice was sworn in March 5th. To give you an idea of the power wielded by the Chief Justice in such cases, Chief Justice Rehnquist was famously strict during President Clinton's impeachment trial, not even allowing Senators to leave the floor for the entire length of the trial once it began (to the frustration of many Senators).

So the trial would proceed in a timely manner once the House passed articles of impeachment. The articles of impeachment do not expire. "[T]he articles of impeachment against Judge Alcee Hastings were presented in the Senate during the second session of the 100th Congress [...] but were still pending trial by the Senate in the 101st Congress, when the House reappointed managers [...]. The articles of impeachment against President Clinton were presented to the Senate after the Senate had adjourned sine die for the 105th Congress, and the Senate conducted the trial in the 106th Congress."

Impeachment Procedures

Sec. 5 . Effect of Adjournment

An impeachment may proceed only when Congress is in session. 3 Hinds Sec. Sec. 2006, 2462. However, an impeachment proceeding does not expire with adjournment. An impeachment proceeding begun in the House in one Congress may be resumed in the next Congress. 3 Hinds Sec. 2321; 111-1, Jan. 13, 2009, p __. An official impeached by the House in one Congress may be tried by the Senate in the next Congress. Manual Sec. 620; 3 Hinds Sec. Sec. 2319, 2320.

Although impeachment proceedings may continue from one Congress to the next, the authority of the managers appointed by the House expires at the end of a Congress; and managers must be reappointed when a new Congress convenes. Manual Sec. 620. Managers on the part of the House are reappointed by resolution. Manual Sec. 604; Deschler Ch 14 Sec. 4.2. Thus, the articles of impeachment against Judge Alcee Hastings were presented in the Senate during the second session of the 100th Congress (100-2, Aug. 3, 1988, p 20223) but were still pending trial by the Senate in the 101st Congress, when the House reappointed managers (101-1, Jan. 3, 1989, p 84). The articles of impeachment against President Clinton were presented to the Senate after the Senate had adjourned sine die for the 105th Congress, and the Senate conducted the trial in the 106th Congress. Manual Sec. 620.

  • There is no vote required on the motion to consider the articles? – SoylentGray Feb 8 '13 at 16:18
  • No. Updated my answer with the full text of the impeachment rules and source. – Michael Kingsmill Feb 8 '13 at 16:25
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    "All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment" - Harsh, dude! :) An interesting question is if Senate Impeachment Rules can be changed by a simple majority of the Senate, in effect removing this workflow path you quoted as an option and replacing with "when we say we are ready"? – user4012 Feb 8 '13 at 20:55
  • @DVK I will refer you to the effort to change the filibuster rules. Unless a Constitutional challenge is made the first day of the session it takes 67 votes to change Senate rules. Only a majority vote is required on Constitutional challenges on the first day of a new Congress. – Michael Kingsmill Feb 8 '13 at 20:58
  • The key here is proper order. – K Dog Sep 24 '19 at 22:37
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Articles of Impeachment do not expire. They can continue from one session of congress to another. I am including a brief paragraph from a government site noting the procedures for impeachment. The attached link will take you to the site if anyone wishes to verify what I am saying.

Please see attached link.

Sec. 5 . Effect of Adjournment

An impeachment may proceed only when Congress is in session. 3 Hinds Sec. Sec. 2006, 2462. However, an impeachment proceeding does not expire with adjournment. An impeachment proceeding begun in the House in one Congress may be resumed in the next Congress. 3 Hinds Sec. 2321; 111-1, Jan. 13, 2009, p __. An official impeached by the House in one Congress may be tried by the Senate in the next Congress. Manual Sec. 620; 3 Hinds Sec. Sec. 2319, 2320. Although impeachment proceedings may continue from one Congress to the next, the authority of the managers appointed by the House expires at the end of a Congress; and managers must be reappointed when a new Congress convenes. Manual Sec. 620. Managers on the part of the House are reappointed by resolution. Manual Sec. 604; Deschler Ch 14 Sec. 4.2. Thus, the articles of impeachment against Judge Alcee Hastings were presented in the Senate during the second session of the 100th Congress (100-2, Aug. 3, 1988, p 20223) but were still pending trial by the Senate in the 101st Congress, when the House reappointed managers (101-1, Jan. 3, 1989, p 84). The articles of impeachment against President Clinton were presented to the Senate after the Senate had adjourned sine die for the 105th Congress, and the Senate conducted the trial in the 106th Congress. Manual Sec. 620.

Impeachment Procedures

  • Unfortunately, this is comment to another answer rather than an answer to the question. I have incorporated your comment into the answer, to correct the misstatement. In the future, please suggest an edit and be specific as to the reason for the edit. – Rick Smith Dec 20 '19 at 14:45
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment_in_the_United_States

The short answer is no. The longer answer is still no.

The Constitution states

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.

It means, the Senate has the power to try all impeachments, but they are not obligated by the Constitution to conduct a trial whatever the House chooses to do.

see longer answer here:

https://www.lawfareblog.com/can-senate-decline-try-impeachment-case

  • I think that the article you linked to makes some good points, and the distinction between "required by current rules" and "required at all" is important, but this answer, as written, is not very good. If you want to revise it to include a few relevant quotes from the article and show the argument that the Senate could change its rules, I'll switch my vote. – Bobson Sep 24 '19 at 22:52

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