Two Senate Votes

February 8, 1999

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Senate taking two votes on the articles of impeachment against President Clinton. The first vote would be on whether he is guilty of certain offenses. The second would be on whether he should be removed from office. Such a plan, it is thought, would give Republicans and Democrats cover on their votes. They could criticize the president for his behavior, but not be saddled with removing him from office.

The idea has been put forward in a legal paper by Joseph Isenbergh, a law professor at the University of Chicago. He cites the impeachment clause of the Constitution which says, “Judgment in cases shall not extend further than to removal from office.” Proponents of this two vote scenario point out that the passage neither defines the grounds for impeachment, nor imposes any limitation whatever on the category of offenses for which a president can be impeached. They also argue that it doesn’t require the Senate to remove an impeached official upon conviction.

They believe that this silence in Article I of the Constitution allows the Senate to convict a president and yet not remove him from office. In fact some Republicans would like to have a vote that would “affirm the House impeachment” so that any action taken by the Senate would not appear to contradict the House.

The only problem with this legal theory is that it is looking for a loophole that does not exist. The Senate is not given the power of impeachment; the House is. The Senate is to try the case and vote for or against conviction. If the president is convicted, he must be removed from office. The framers of the Constitution didn’t intend for there to be a loophole, and the Senate would be wise to try the case and stop looking for loopholes.

I’m Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that’s my opinion.

© 1999 Probe Ministries International