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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Breaking Tie Votes in the Impeachment Trial

Based on the precedent set during Andrew Johnson's trial, the Chief Justice is permitted to vote when there is a tie in the Senate on a motion. The Chief Justice may want to think about establishing some principle that will guide his votes. For example, he could adopt the practice of the Speaker of the House of Commons, who exercises his tie-breaking vote to extend debate or to reject a substantive motion, on the theory that a motion to end debate or do something substantive lacked a majority. 

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on October 23, 2019 at 03:39 PM | Permalink


Chief Justice Chase said that as the presiding officer he had the same right to break ties that the Vice-President had in ordinary Senate sessions. And, I think, he did break at least one tie. The Senate let all of the stand, so that is the constitutional authority. How to exercise that power is another matter. Chase did not lay down any standard that I'm aware of.

Posted by: Gerard | Oct 24, 2019 12:20:44 PM

Is the "precedent" you're discussing reasoned discussion/explanation, or just a description of historical fact?

Posted by: Seth M. Galanter | Oct 24, 2019 12:09:14 PM

Important. But it is not so clear, that it is in accordance with constitutional provisions. The rules of the Senate, don't provide either nothing in this regard. The relevant clause in the constitution provides that:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

End of quotation:

So, hard to reconcile it with " sole power ". And anyway, vote is of two thirds of the members present ( emphasizing : " members " ). On the other hand, the chief justice presides. That is to say, that he acts actually as president. As such, in an impasse in vote ( let alone only for motion, not conviction) it looks legally reasonable.Otherwise, how can it be solved ( besides, voting over and over, until prevailed )


Posted by: El roam | Oct 23, 2019 4:17:56 PM

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