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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-N.Y.) don't see eye to eye on much when it comes to President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate 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 BluntBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon passes on Senate campaign 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 DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire 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.