A Chief Justice’s Proper Presiding

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) tried to con Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, serving as Presiding Officer in the Senate’s trial of the House’s impeachment case, into taking an active role in that trial rather than honoring his duty as impartial presider.

Schumer proposed that, should the Senate vote regarding calling witnesses end in a tie, Roberts should exercise his authority as Presiding Officer to cast a tie-breaking vote. After all, he said, Chief Justice Samuel Chase did that during the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson 150+ years ago.

I have a parliamentary inquiry. Is the chief justice aware that in the impeachment trial of President Johnson, Chief Justice Chase, as presiding officer, cast tie-breaking votes on both March 31 and April 2, 1868?

Which Roberts promptly dismissed as concerning trivial matters.

The one concerned a motion to adjourn. The other concerned a motion to close deliberations. I do not regard those isolated episodes 150 years ago as sufficient to support a general authority to break ties.

Then he closed out the matter.

If the members of this body, elected by the people and accountable to them, divide equally on a motion—the normal rule is that the motion fails.
I think it would be inappropriate for me, an unelected official from a different branch of government, to assert the power to change that result so that the motion would succeed.

An excellent shut-down of the Minority Leader cynical “inquiry.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *