Senators Get Crash Course in Combating ‘Distractions’ as Information Overload from Impeachment Sets In

No Phones, No Coffee, No Talking, No Kidding!

Old Senate chamber in the Capitol

By Jonathan Spira on 22 January 2020
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The first day of the actual impeachment proceedings in the Senate chamber began on Wednesday with all 100 senators present observing not only the historic proceedings but also observing numerous rules that any ten-year-old might also be familiar with at dinnertime.

The rules in the Senate during the impeachment proceedings are simple: No mobile phones, no talking, no coffee, and substitutions in their seats by staffers. In other words, none of the usual distractions – texting and social media come to mind – at a senator’s disposal were being taken away.

Much like a strict nanny, the Senate sergeant-at-arms will remind the senators of the rules at the start of each session, recites the same dramatic command first uttered in 1868 at the nation’s first presidential impeachment trial: “All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment.”

Silence is not in a U.S. senator’s nature.

“Every senator will have some trouble – we are not, by nature, silent,” Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt told the New York Times.

Several hours into the first day, the senators, who act as the jury, were starting to look like errant schoolchildren: Notes were being passed, a few stole glances at their smart watches (which, unlike smartphones, were not forbidden), and at least one senator whispered a question to another.

Also like school, at least school for those not in kindergarten, games and puzzles are forbidden and to the chagrin of many, cups of coffee are also on the verboten list.

There was, however a bright side: Senators did have hundreds of pages of legal briefs relating to the impeachment to keep them awake, or perhaps not: At least one senator didn’t make it through the proceedings awake: Idaho Senator Jim Risch appeared to doze off during impeachment manager Representative Val Demings arguments.  A spokesman for the senator told the Wall Street Journal that he was simply listening “with his eyes closed or cast down.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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