Jeff Ackerman: We’ve got an election to get to
After watching the second day (and night) of the Senate impeachment trial, I will never, ever say another bad thing about the 100 people we elect to serve on that august body.
Anyone who could sit through 12 hours of that must have buns of steel, camel-like intestinal fortitude and ability to sleep with their eyes open.
Somewhere in the middle of Adam Schiff’s two-and-a-half-hour opening Wednesday riff, some senators were seen heading for the “cloakrooms” adjacent to the chambers.
As you would expect, there are very strict rules governing Senate decorum. Those rules came about when our forefathers determined that guns should never be present when debating bills having to do with alcohol, taxes, or tobacco.
It’s why respective senators are referred to as, “The Gentleman from California,” rather than, “Fred, the idiot from Bakersfield.”
Many of those rules probably didn’t consider 12-hour sessions, where someone like the “Gentleman from California” Adam Bennett Schiff would talk for 90 minutes straight without inhaling.
Strictly enforced, Senate rules require that the 100 Senators remain seated unless they are the ones doing the talking, or have an objection to the one who is. Senators are not permitted to speak unless recognized and cell phones are forbidden. I’m not sure many of us have been without our cell phones for a 12-hour stretch that doesn’t include the flu, or prison.
Another Senate rule allows only water inside the chamber (or … outside the “cloakroom”). There have been recent media reports that milk is also allowed, but there is nothing in the Senate rules that mentions milk. Long ago, someone asked if he could ask for a glass a milk and was told there was nothing in the rule book prohibiting that. When he got the glass of milk he was told, “I said you could ask for a glass of milk. I didn’t say you could have one.”
There are obvious exceptions for bathroom breaks and several senators were seen leaving the chambers for the bathroom, with a stop at the “cloakroom,” where the goodies are stashed. Most every senator keeps a stash inside the cloakroom and for the ones who don’t, there is reportedly a “candy drawer” located somewhere on the Republican side of the aisle.
Given the harsh partisan bickering, Republicans might not be inclined to open the candy drawer to Democrats. My hope is that the candy drawer serves as kind of a Demilitarized Zone, as we saw in Vietnam and Korean.
“The Gentleman from New York would like a Milky Way.”
“The Gentleman from Arizona recognizes the Gentleman from New York. Take one Milky Way and get out of here.”
What the senators should know is that there are people keeping track of who comes and goes during the proceedings. According to one report, 21 Republicans were going to the bathroom, or visiting the cloakroom during parts of Schiff’s 90-minute talk. Media reports indicated that two Democrats were also missing during a portion of the remarks.
I’m not sure how many bathroom stalls the Senate has, but there must have been a line.
I don’t recall reading a similar media summary of attendance of the House hearings, where they rushed to draw up the articles for impeachment in time for Speaker Pelosi to order commemorative silver platters and pens for Christmas. I doubt every House Democrat sat glued to their respective seats during the two-week-long debate. And — based on their own social media activities — many Democrats had already favored impeachment before Trump was even sworn to office.
It’s interesting that some are screaming for a nonpartisan Senate trial on charges that were brought by a partisan House vote. Not a single House Republican voted to impeach. That entire process could not have been more partisan.
“We cannot wait four years to vote Trump out of office,” declared Congressman Jerrold Nadler following the 2016 election. He is one of the ringleaders of that “unbiased and nonpartisan” House impeachment.
The roles were reversed 21 years ago. In February, 1999, all 45 Democrats in the Senate voted to acquit Bill Clinton on two charges. That was enough, since a conviction would have required at least a dozen of them to support it. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority (67) vote, which means every Democrat and 20 of the 53 Republicans in the Senate today would need to vote to convict Donald Trump.
And that is just not going to happen.
Our Founding Fathers feared that a vote to impeach a duly elected president would be based not on demonstrations of guilt or innocence, but on the “comparative strength of the parties.”
They assumed the allegations and evidence for impeachment (high crimes) would be powerful enough to garner bipartisan support. Without that bipartisan support, the Articles for Impeachment should not have left the House, where it didn’t even get the support of every Democrat.
The Founding Fathers also assumed — at the end of the day — Congress would ultimately be held accountable by The People in something called an “election.”
Until then, we’ll have to hope that milk, water and candy won’t be enough to sustain this partisan process much longer.
We have an election to get to.
Jeff Ackerman is a former publisher of The Union. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
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