Cake
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    • It seems to me like the big issue with impeachment is there’s too much politics involved. Senators who are acting as jurors have to calculate what effect their vote will have on their chances of re-election, etc. The idea is that senators are supposed to be impartial judges, but given the potential political effects of their votes, it’s really impossible for them to be so. 

      What I was wondering is if anyone has ideas on what can be done to make this impeachment process better. One idea I have is to make it so that senators' votes can be kept secret. It seems like the publicity of their votes could prevent them from voting their conscience. 

      The other idea is for the Supreme Court to decide whether or not a president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Supreme Court justices are given lifetime appointments and don’t have to worry about losing their jobs if they rule in a way that upsets one of the two major political parties. I know the Supreme Court Chief Justice presides over the senate trial, but it seems like the Supreme Court could have a more active role here.

      I know impeachment can’t ever be perfect, but it does seem to me that this process could be better. Having Mitch McConnell go on national television and say he’s going to make sure no Republican senator votes to remove Trump from office seems to fly in the face of what this process is really supposed to be about. Thoughts? 

    • I agree that the process could be better but as long as senators are following the pack as opposed to following the constitution I think the senate trial will be a disaster.

      How can individual senators who are supposed to act as impartial jurors already be stating they will be voting against impeachement?

      I think your idea of using a secret ballot has the potential to help but I don't see that happening.

      McConnell's behavior is appalling. While I understand it is impossible to enter this process without preconceived leanings I don't understand how these individuals can choose to ignore the constitution in addition to closing their minds to arguments / information that has been presented.

      I wish I had a better idea!

    • In the first place, Congress doesn't impeach only Presidents. When it comes to anyone who is impeached, there are three separate decisions. Although they are separate, yet the second and third don't occur if the first is decided in the negative.

      1. Removal? Yes or No.

      2. Disqualify from future office? Believe it or not, a removed official can hold office again except if the Senate decides to also disqualify them.

      3. Guilty? Believe it or not, removal does not constitute a finding of legal guilt. If the government chooses to prosecute a removed official this is done separately in a court.

      Second, the Constitution was based on a reaction to the British parliamentary system. The parliamentary system does not separate the executive and the legislative branches of government. The reason that a President is impeached in the Senate is one that may surprise you.

      Until 1913, the Senate existed for the PRIMARY purpose of giving the governments of each of the States a voice in the National government. The framers intended that Senators make decisions which reflected the combined will of the State governments. That is why Treaties were to be confirmed by the Senate. That is why the Senate has the power of Advice and Consent in the selection of the President's cabinet and that is also why the Framers chose to give the Senate power over the decision of whether ""The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States" are to be removed from office.

      Today, the State governments are impotent in the National government. But the original plan of the Framers was that the combined will of a majority of the State governments expressed through the Senate would have clout in the running of the National government.

      This was part of what is called "the checks and balances" of the federal system.

      Sadly, over a century ago, there were problems within several state governments pertaining to the selection of the Senators. Seats in the Senate sat vacant because the States which were supposed to select Senators for each of those seats were having internal squabbles within the State governments.

      In frustration, the Congress proposed removing the power of the State legislatures to select the Senators. Since most of the States were not having this problem and since those States which were not having the problem were getting upset with the States which were allowing these seats to sit vacant (and since people tend to choose short-term solutions over a consideration of long-term consequences) most of the states ratified this proposed amendment.

      The reason that today we have situations in which a large number of States band together to sue the national government in court is because the State governments are no longer able to resolve these problems through the Senate and because they've been left out of the loop in the legislative decision process.

      Your suggestion would weaken the "checks and balances" even further and it would add a burden to SCOTUS which is ALREADY over-burdened and has a difficult time keeping up with all the requests for its attention, some of which are mandatory.

    • FWIW, I do not have a well-formed opinion on this. But my 👏 to your comment was because I learned a great deal from your share about the history of the Senate. That’s one of the things that I like about Cake: every day seems to have a #TIL moment. I also thought your argument was incredibly well-crafted as a result of the historical background and it was, imho, a very convincing argument.

      👏👏👏👏

    • Stephen,

      I try to stay out of most policy discussions and focus on the structure.

      I am not opposed to changing the structure but I do think that we need to understand the structure before we change it so that our changes cause us to have a more admirable structure than whatever we might presently have.

      For example, some people think that changes need to be made to the method by which Constitutional amendments are put into effect.

      I have no problem with that idea. I may like or dislike a specific suggestion pertaining to what change is made but the general idea of changing the process is not something I oppose as long as we are trying to produce a better structure.

      In 2011, there was a "liberal majority" on SCOTUS and people were talking about "a living constitution". Now there isn't a "liberal majority" and Ginsburg's health is troubling. People are no longer talking about "a living constitution".

      Why Not? Because the idea was fundamentally flawed.

      It would have turned five justices into an oligarchy which could alter the Constitution without the input of the people. The same people who were advocating that idea eight years ago would be horrified at the idea that five of the current majority of SCOTUS could change the Constitution in that manner.

      They were not thinking about Structure.

      Before 2017, anyone who talked about Structure was accused of using "code language." But the fact is that unless we have a Structure, we will be ruled by whims and not by a solid government.

      Short-term policy changes may make the masses happy but those which destroy structure set precedents which can be then used by the opposite party when it replaces whatever party is currently in power.

      That's why I don't like the way Executive Orders have been used in the last ten years. Executive Orders by any administration which attempt to circumvent the constitutional power of the legislative branch will have long term detrimental consequences to the structure of the national government.

    • Chief Justice Roberts is supposed to be a guy who wants his court to be above politics and be as objective as possible. It is good to know that he will be the one calling the shots and running the trial.