Senators under strict orders to pay attention during weeks-long impeachment trial

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) don't see eye to eye on much when it comes to President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE's impeachment, but they are in agreement on one point: senators need to pay attention and remain engaged during the trial.

While many senators have noted that Trump's acquittal is all but guaranteed, since 67 votes are needed to convict, McConnell and Schumer nevertheless want their colleagues to take the trial seriously and have set strict rules of decorum to make sure they pay attention during the weeks-long trial.

Senators will soon have to listen to hours of oral presentations from House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team, and the House lawmakers will not be allowed to use video presentations to liven up their arguments, according to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' MORE (R-Mo.).


That means the proceedings may at times seem monotonous — something Democrats have worried about as they prepare for the trial proceedings to get underway.

McConnell has argued that the impeachment trial is not like a criminal court, citing the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist who ruled in 1999 that senators are not technically jurors. But in some ways, they will be required to act as though they are.

Most Senate debates are held in a largely empty chamber, as lawmakers often watch arguments by television from their offices, if they watch at all. But McConnell and Schumer have informed colleagues that senators “should plan to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings.”

When Chief Justice John Roberts arrives in the Senate chamber on Thursday, all senators will be required to silently rise at their desks and remain standing until Roberts takes his seat. Similarly, when Roberts leaves the chambers, senators will have to stand up, a formality that’s not required for the vice president or any other presiding Senate officer.

Senators have also been instructed that they are only allowed to read materials pertaining to the trial. In other words, reviewing other legislation or signing letters to constituents at their desks is a no-no.


Additionally, they have been advised to “refrain from speaking to neighboring senators while the case is being presented.”

Lawmakers are generally not allowed to use cellphones on the Senate floor, but the rule often gets broken without any repercussions. Senate leaders are putting their foot down for the impeachment trial, however, and have even set up special cubby holes in the Senate cloakroom where lawmakers will have to stash their devices.

“We walked into the cloakroom and see this brand new cabinet with slots with our names on it … for our phones,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders surge triggers Dem angst As many as eight GOP senators expected to vote to curb Trump's power to attack Iran MORE (Ill.).

Durbin said senators are not allowed to use their phones on the floor but acknowledged they sometimes do anyway.

When votes are held during the impeachment trial, senators will be required to stand and vote from their seats, a practice reserved for only the most solemn occasions.

Senators are also being told they are not allowed to walk through the well of the Senate while the House impeachment managers or the president’s lawyers are presenting their cases.