Congressional Guide to Impeachment: How to Impeach
When drafting the Constitution, the framers intentionally made it difficult to impeach federal officials, including the President of the United States. As a result, no sitting President has ever been removed from office. While both Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were both impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate failed to convict them.
The Constitution establishes when a federal officer may be removed from office. Article 2, Section 4 states: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The Constitution further provides that judgement cannot “extend further than to removal and disqualification to hold and enjoy and office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
The Constitution also sets forth a two-step process to impeach a public official. Article I, Section 2, Clause 5of the Constitution grants to the House of Representatives “the sole power of impeachment.” Meanwhile,Article I, Section 3, Clause 6grants to the Senate “the sole power to try all impeachments.”
The House impeaches an individual when a majority agrees to a House resolution containing articles of impeachment, which lay out the official charges against the public official. After the House votes to impeach an officer, the Senate is the tasked with conducting a trial to determine whether the charged individual should be removed from office. A two-thirds vote in the Senate is required for removal.
Impeachment Process in the House
The House impeachment process may begin in a variety of ways, including the receipt of information from an outside investigation and the introduction of articles of impeachment in the form of a House resolution. A resolution calling for the impeachment of an officer is referred to the Judiciary Committee, while a resolution simply authorizing an investigation of an officer is referred to the Rules Committee.
In most cases, the Judiciary Committee is assigned the role of determining whether there are sufficient grounds for Congress to impeach the president.In doing so, it may consider not only the original information submitted in the resolution, but also gather additional information via subpoenas, depositions, and public hearings. Impeachment investigations are governed by the standing rules of the House, the terms of the resolution authorizing the investigation, and any additional rules adopted by the committee in the course of its inquiry.
After conducting its inquiry, the Judiciary Committee must determine whether to proceed with removal of the officer. If it elects to move forward, it must then draft articles of impeachment, which set forth the official charges against the public official. It must then approve the articles and send them to the full House for consideration.
Although floor consideration of an impeachment resolution is akin to floor consideration of legislation, there is one key distinction. Under normal House rules, Representatives are prohibited from using language that is personally offensive toward the President, which would include accusations that the President committed a crime or allusions to unethical behavior. However, when debating an impeachment resolution, remarks may refer to the alleged misconduct of the President that is under consideration by the House.
Impeachment Process in the Senate
Impeachment, which resembles an indictment in an ordinary criminal proceeding, is only the first step in the process. Once the official is impeached, the Senate holds a trial to determine if the official should be convicted, i.e. removed from office.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides as the judge during the Senate impeachment proceedings. Managers appointed by the House, who may be assisted by outside counsel, serve as the prosecution, presenting and arguing the case before the Senate “jury.” Much like a court proceeding, the public official is entitled to make a defense. Documentary evidence may be presented, and witnesses may testify and are subject to cross-examination. Senators may also submit written questions for the House managers and accused to answer. The Senate may also adopt resolutions establishing specific procedures for the impeachment process.
A two-thirds majority is required to convict. Upon conviction, the public official is removed from office. If there is no single charge in the articles of impeachment that results in a “guilty” vote of a two-thirds majority of the senators present, the public official is acquitted.
Interested in learning more about political figures and judges who have been impeached in the past? Here is a list of related articles
- Judge Samuel B Kent Avoided Impeachment by Resigning
- Impeachment of Judge Halsted L Ritter
- Federal Judge Harold Louderback Beat Impeachment Charges
- Impeachment of Judge George W English Dismissed After Resignation
- Impeachment of Judge Robert W Archbald
- District Court Judge Charles Swayne Beats Impeachment
- Federal Judge John Pickering Remebered For His Impeachment
- Judge G Thomas Porteous Is Last Judge to Be Impeached
- Judge Walter L. Nixon Impeached After Perjury Conviction
- Judge Alcee Hastings Impeached for Bribery
- Judge Harry Claiborne Impeached for Tax Evasion
- Lincoln Ally US District Judge Mark W Delahay Impeached for Intoxication
- District Court Judge West Humphreys Impeached After Joining Confederacy
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Preamble to the Bill of Rights
Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.