What role is assigned to the Senate in impeachment proceedings?

J. H. Osborne • Nov 4, 2019 at 2:18 PM

The following information comes from the official website of the United States Senate and is published there under the heading “The Senate’s Impeachment Role.”

• “The United States Constitution provides that the House of Representatives ‘shall have the sole Power of Impeachment’ (Article I, section 2) and that ‘the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments … [but] no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present’ (Article I, section 3). The president, vice president, and all civil officers of the United States are subject to impeachment.”

• “The concept of impeachment originated in England and was adopted by many of the American colonial governments and state constitutions. As adopted by the framers, this congressional power is a fundamental component of the constitutional system of ‘checks and balances.’ Through the impeachment process, Congress charges and then tries an official of the federal government for ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’ The definition of ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ was not specified in the Constitution and has long been subject to debate.”

• “In impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by approving, by majority vote, articles of impeachment. A committee of representatives, called ‘managers,’ acts as prosecutors before the Senate.”

• “The Senate sits as a High Court of Impeachment in which senators consider evidence, hear witnesses, and vote to acquit or convict the impeached official.”

• “In the case of presidential impeachment trials, the chief justice of the United States presides.”

• “The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and the penalty for an impeached official upon conviction is removal from office. In some cases, the Senate has also disqualified such officials from holding public offices in the future. There is no appeal.”

• “Since 1789, about half of Senate impeachment trials have resulted in conviction and removal from office.”

For more information on the historical development of the impeachment process, details of influential impeachment cases, and a complete list (with outcomes) of Senate impeachments, visit the Senate’s website.