Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on

Chaplain Barry Black opened the Senate on Wednesday with a simple request: Let them be civil.

“Help them remember that patriots reside on both sides of the aisle, that words have consequences and that how something is said can be as important as what is said,” Black said.

The opening prayer, offered every day the Senate is in session, comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFauci says his meetings with Trump have 'dramatically decreased' McEnany criticizes DC mayor for not imposing earlier curfew amid protests Stopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest MORE’s impeachment trial is testing the physical and mental endurance of senators, who are required to be in the chamber throughout the proceeding. 

Under decorum guidelines circulated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic For city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJudd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight Federal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members MORE (D-N.Y.), senators are expected to be in their seats at all times, are not supposed to talk to neighboring senators and can’t bring devices such as cellphones or tablets on the floor. Additionally, any reading materials are supposed to be related to impeachment.

It’s a stark contrast to the normal clubby atmosphere of the Senate floor, where senators circulate among their colleagues and float off and on the floor during a vote series.

Senators are already showing signs of restlessness and rule-breaking roughly 48 hours into the trial. 

Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US AIPAC cancels 2021 policy conference due to COVID-19 GOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown MORE (R-Texas), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic The Memo: Strife turns up heat on Trump MORE (R-S.C.) and Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseHillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research On The Money: GOP senators heed Fed chair's call for more relief | Rollout of new anti-redlining laws spark confusion in banking industry | Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic MORE (R-Neb.), and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-S.C.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoIRS proposes guidance for expanded carbon capture tax credit No better time to modernize America's energy infrastructure EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 MORE (R-Wyo.) and John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (R-Texas) were spotted chatting intermittently from their seats on the Senate floor during the trial.


Reporters have also been keeping a close eye on senators who might be drifting off during the hours on the Senate floor and appeared to spot Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischHillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal MORE (R-Idaho) sleeping on Tuesday, while an NBC News reporter noted that Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBipartisan Senate panel leaders back fund to deter China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein MORE (R-Okla.) on Wednesday appeared to briefly fall asleep before being nudged by Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Lawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research MORE (R-Ind.), who sits next to him on the floor.

Senators in both parties were seen standing near their chairs or in some cases pacing the outer edge of the floor as the impeachment trial dragged on. Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 MORE (D-Ore.) stretched his arms and yawned, while Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, was spotted resting his face in his hands and scrunching his eyes in an attempt to wake up.

“I’m not somebody who is very good at sitting in one place ... for extended periods of time, so it takes a little bit more focus and discipline,” Thune said. “You just got to grind through it.”

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (Ill.), his Democratic counterpart, noted that “in the last hour or two, I was up and standing, just to move around a little bit and keep my attention focused on what we were doing.”

Senators are being provided a constant supply of snacks to help them try to power through the unusually long session days.

Though Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (R-Pa.) told reporters that the Senate candy drawer was “running low,” mounds of snacks could be seen in both the Democratic and Republican cloakrooms. Thune noted he had been munching on Nerds and Swedish Fish; Durbin referred to the bounty in the Democratic room as a “Costco dump.”

On the floor, senators are allowed to have only water or milk, though aides noted that if a senator wanted to drink the latter, they had to bring their own.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Chinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' MORE (R-Ark.) caused a frenzy among reporters when he was spotted drinking milk on the Senate floor; an aide said Cruz also has had a glass during the impeachment trial.

"There's only two drinks allowed on the Senate floor: milk and water. That must come from a Wisconsin senator, right?" Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold Johnson Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Comey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe MORE (R-Wis.) told reporters before noting that he was sticking to water.

In addition to tight restrictions on the Senate floor, dramatic restrictions on press access have also limited a senator’s ability to talk to reporters, who must remain in pens when on the second floor of the Capitol. The dynamic has set up various stakeout points for senators if they want to talk to reporters, creating a bottleneck at times.

Schumer was spotted waiting to speak to reporters twice on Wednesday, once hovering behind Cornyn. Shortly thereafter, he approached a stakeout in the basement, where he waited as Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Conservative group launches campaign accusing Democrats of hypocrisy on Kavanuagh, Biden MORE (D-Hawaii) finished talking to reporters. Hirono turned around, spotted him and said she was “done," ushering him to the cameras.

Other senators have used different tactics to try to get their message out. Cruz has launched a daily podcast called “The Verdict” about impeachment. An aide said it was being used as a way to “speak directly to the American people during the trail and provide insights and analysis that you wouldn't find on the evening news.”

Frustrations spilled over early Wednesday morning — still the opening portion of the trial that had started Tuesday afternoon — when Republican senators broke with the chamber’s decorum guidelines and clapped when White House counsel Pat Cipollone said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality House Democrats call on DOJ to investigate recent killings of unarmed black people  Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (D-N.Y.) should be “embarrassed” for his rhetoric.

“I might have put my palms together,” said Johnson. “You might have heard a few groans every now and then too.”

The flashpoint underscores the dilemma for senators: Despite their status as both jury and judge President Trump’s impeachment trial, during the day-to-day procedure they are largely relegated to the sidelines. 

At one point, Perdue, coming off the floor during one of the breaks, appeared furious with Democrats.

“This is ridiculous. The hypocrisy of House members coming to the United States Senate and lecturing us about fairness is insulting,” he told The Hill when asked how he felt about being stuck on the floor.

The raucous rules fight was likely the peak, in terms of drama, of the trial for the next several days as the Senate turns to three days of opening arguments for House managers followed by three days for Trump’s legal team.

Each side gets up to 24 hours to make its case, but senators have a blunt request: Please don’t.

“God help us if we have to listen to Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE and the House Democrats prattle on for 24 hours nonstop,” Cruz told reporters.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support GOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown Trump's social media executive order is a huge opportunity MORE (R-Mo.), referring to the roughly 13-hour floor marathon, added, “By 2 a.m. last night people were not happy.”  

Impeachment managers appeared to recognize at various points that they were delivering their arguments to 100 senators who have limited attention spans. Risch at one point was holding up his watch and tapping it as he looked toward the front of the chamber. He declined to say Wednesday if he was trying to signal for House managers to wrap up, saying he's not giving impeachment interviews. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) joked to senators that he had 57 minutes left to deliver a rebuttal but quipped, “Don't worry. I won't use it!"

Rep. Jason CrowJason CrowGun control group rolls out House endorsements Bipartisan House bill seeks to improve pandemic preparedness Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (D-Colo.), one of the House impeachment managers, also noted that senators appeared to be getting restless as he was delivering the opening arguments for Democrats.

“I do see the members moving and taking a break,” he said from the floor. “Would you like to take a break at this time? I have probably another 15 minutes.”