The Clinton Precedent Calls For Two Separate Trial Resolutions

In Letter And Media Appearances, Schumer Misleads On How The Senate Conducted Clinton Impeachment, ‘But No Amount Of Bluster Will Change The Simple Fact That We Already Have A Unanimous Bipartisan Precedent’


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “Over the weekend, my colleague the Democratic Leader began asking the Senate to break from precedent, break with the unanimous template from 1999, and begin choreographing the middle of a potential trial before we’ve even heard opening arguments. In 1999, all 100 senators agreed on a simple pre-trial resolution that set up a briefing, opening arguments, senators’ questions, and a vote on a motion to dismiss. Senators reserved all other questions, such as witnesses, until the trial was underway. That was the unanimous bipartisan precedent from 1999. Put first things first, lay the bipartisan groundwork, and leave mid-trial questions to the middle of the trial. I have hoped, and still hope, that the Democratic Leader and I can sit down and reproduce that unanimous bipartisan agreement this time. His decision to try to angrily negotiate through the press is unfortunate. But no amount of bluster will change the simple fact that we already have a unanimous bipartisan precedent.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 12/18/2019)


In 1999, All 100 Senators Agreed To A Basic Framework To Begin President Clinton’s Trial, Leaving Decisions On Witnesses For Later

On January 8, 1999, the Senate passed S. Res. 16 100-0. (S.Res.16, Roll Call Vote #1: Resolution Agreed To 100-0: D 45-0, R 55-0, 1/8/1999)


S. Res. 16 - A resolution to provide for the issuance of a summons and for related procedures concerning the articles of impeachment against William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States.

  • “Provides for the issuance of a summons and establishes deadlines for the filing of trial briefs and motions related to the articles of impeachment against William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States.” (S.Res.16, 106th Congress)
  • “Sets forth provisions regarding arguments on such motions and presentations by the House of Representatives and the President.” (S.Res.16, 106th Congress)
  • “Authorizes Senators to question parties for up to 16 hours. Makes it in order to: (1) consider and debate a motion to dismiss as outlined by the impeachment rules after such questioning; and (2) make a motion to subpoena witnesses and to present evidence not in the record, subject to a debate time limitation, after such debate. Provides for Senate votes on such motions.” (S.Res.16, 106th Congress)
  • “Requires the Senate, if it agrees to allow the House or the President to call witnesses, to depose such witnesses and decide which witnesses shall testify. Provides for agreement by both leaders to the time for depositions. Makes testimony inadmissible unless the parties have had an opportunity to depose such witnesses.” (S.Res.16, 106th Congress)
  • “Declares that the parties will proceed to present evidence if the Senate fails to dismiss the case and requires the Senate to vote on each article of impeachment at the conclusion of its deliberations.” (S.Res.16, 106th Congress)


Then-Democratic Leader Tom Daschle: ‘Some Decision Will Be Made With Regard To Witnesses’ ‘On A Subsequent Date’

THEN-SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): “Our goal was to ensure that, first, this process be bipartisan. Today, I think we're able to establish that, indeed, this will be bipartisan…. We now have a process that will allow the case to be made without witnesses. It will only be after that period that some decision will be made with regard to witnesses …” (Sen. Daschle, Press Conference, 1/08/1999)

  • SEN. DASCHLE: “We vote on a subsequent date and under a subsequent motion to hear those witnesses should they -- should the Senate decide to hear them.” (Sen. Daschle, Press Conference, 1/08/1999)


Weeks Later, After The Senate Had Heard Arguments From Both Sides, The Senate Voted On A Separate Resolution On Subpoenaing Witnesses, Which Democrats All Voted Against

Senators met behind closed doors for three hours Tuesday night to debate the volatile witness issue, which is set for a vote today along with a motion to dismiss the perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges against Clinton and halt the impeachment trial... As the trial, only the second of a president in U.S. history, nears the end of its third week, the White House scoffed at the suggestion that Clinton might submit to questioning, even if the Senate votes to issue an invitation.” (“Witness Issue Tops Agenda; Senate Urged To Summon Three, Question President Under Oath,” The Houston Chronicle, 1/27/1999)

  • “When the trial resumes at 1 p.m. today, Lott may allow senators to pose more questions on the floor to the White House lawyers and House prosecutors, but the Senate plans to then move to the more critical decision-making phase. Under the trial rules, senators will hear debate from both legal teams on the motion to dismiss the case and then the managers' request for witnesses.” (“Key GOP Senators Urge Trial's End,” The Washington Post, 1/25/1999)


S. Res. 30 - A resolution relative to the procedures concerning the Articles of Impeachment against William Jefferson Clinton.

  • “Title I: Procedures Concerning the Articles of Impeachment Against William Jefferson Clinton - Sets forth procedures concerning the articles of impeachment against William Jefferson Clinton.” (S.Res.30, 106th Congress)
  • “Title II: To Authorize Issuance of Subpoenas to Take Depositions in the Trial of the Articles of Impeachment Against William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States - Requires the Chief Justice of the United States, through the Secretary of the Senate, to issue subpoenas for the taking of testimony on oral deposition to Sidney Blumenthal, Monica S. Lewinsky, and Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. in the trial of the articles of impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton.” (S.Res.30, 106th Congress)


Senate Democrats Unanimously Opposed Subpoenaing And Deposing Witnesses In President Clinton’s Trial

On January 28, 1999, every present Senate Democrat voted against S. Res. 30. (S.Res. 30, Roll Call Vote #8: Resolution Agreed To 54-44: D 0-44, R 54-0, 1/28/1999, Schumer Voted Nay)


But Now, Sen. Schumer Is Breaking With Precedent And Demanding The Senate Agree To His Preferred Witnesses Up Front

SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “We believe all of this should be considered in one resolution.  The issue of witnesses and documents, which are the most important issues facing us, should be decided before we move forward with any part of the trial.” (Sen. Schumer, Letter to Sen. McConnell, 12/15/2019)

SEN. McCONNELL: “Instead of the tried-and-true 1999 model — start the trial and then see how senators wish to proceed — the Democratic Leader wants to write completely new rules for President Trump. He wants one single resolution upfront instead of two, or however many are needed. He wants to guarantee upfront that the Senate hear from very specific witnesses, instead of letting the body evaluate the witness issue after opening arguments and Senators’ questions, like in 1999.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 12/17/2018)



Related Issues: History, Senate Democrats