Constitutional FAQ Answer #115
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Q115. "What is the impeachment
A. The Constitution details impeachment in Article 1, Section 2, Article 1, Section 3, Article 2, Section 3, and Article 3, Section 2. The word "details,"
however, is a bit strong for what the Constitution provides. As with many
things, the Constitution primarily gives us a skeleton of a process. The House
brings charges for impeachment. The Senate holds a trial and votes to convict
or acquit. The only way to remove a President, Vice President, or Article 3
judge is through impeachment. Impeachments are not tried by a jury. The rest of
the process is left to the rules of Congress.
The process begins with the House. It votes on passing articles of
impeachment against a member of the Executive or Judicial branches. If the
articles pass, then it is said that the person has been impeached. The vote is
a straight up-or-down, majority vote.
After the House votes, the impeachment goes to the Senate. There, members
of the House who were advocates for impeachment become the prosecutors in the
Senate trial (they are called the House Managers). The accused secures his own
counsel. The judge is the Senate itself, though the presiding officer acts as
the head judge. In the case of a presidential impeachment, the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court presides; in other cases, the Vice President or President
Pro Tem presides.
After all testimony has been heard, the Senate votes. If the Senate votes
to convict by more than a two-thirds majority, the person is impeached. The
person convicted is removed from office. The Senate may also prevent that
person from ever holding another elective office. The Senate may set its own
rules for impeachments, and the rules are not subject to judicial review. The
Senate has streamlined rules for trial of impeachment for persons holding lower
offices. There is no appeal in the case of conviction of impeachment.
During the threat of impeachment of President Nixon, Charles Black wrote a
book called Impeachment
which details the process even further.