If 30 Republican Senators boycotted the impeachment trial vote, Democrats would be enough of the constitutionally required two-thirds vote to remove Trump from office.
The loophole via Washingtonian:
The Constitution doesn’t indicate that removal from office requires two-thirds of the Senate. It requires two-thirds of senators present for the proceedings.
The inclusion of this single word in the Constitution’s impeachment clauses shifts the mathematical ledger of how impeachment, however unlikely, could go down. It allows for the all-important two-thirds threshold to exist along a sliding scale—far from the full attendance of the 100-member Senate. In theory, a vote to convict the President (or anyone else) would count as legal with as few as 34 members, not 67, assuming the absolute minimum (51) participated.
“The Constitution contains quorum requirements [elsewhere] and clearly distinguishes between percentages of a particular chamber and percentages of ‘members present,’” said Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School and the co-author of the book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment. “That language in the provision for Senate conviction on impeachment charges is quite deliberate, creating precisely the possibility” described above.
The Constitution doesn’t require two-thirds of the entire Senate, just two-thirds of those present at the time of the vote.
Here is how the math could work, according to Professor Tribe:
If 30 of the 53 Republican Senators were to boycott the final Senate vote, “two-thirds of the Senators present” = 2/3 x 70 = 47, the exact number of Democratic Senators. Enough to convict. And 12 of the Republican Senators present might join those 47. https://t.co/Fj91iUWHvt
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) October 12, 2019
If a group of Senate Republicans didn’t want to vote to convict Trump but also didn’t support what the president, they could avoid the whole thing by skipping the vote. It is has been reported that there are 30-35 Republican Senators who would vote to convict and remove Trump if the vote was by secret ballot.
Senate Republicans are afraid to cross Trump’s base of support by voting to convict and remove him, but they could claim to be boycotting the “sham” impeachment and get Trump removed from office by not showing up for the final vote.
It is a longshot, but Democrats don’t need Republican votes to convict Trump.
They could remove him from office if enough Senate Republicans refuse to vote.
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Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association