Senators Propose New Impeachment Rules Requiring Supermajority In House, Witness Testimony in Senate

Sen. Rick Scott
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) proposed a constitutional amendment designed to make it more difficult for the House to impeach a public official, one day after voting to acquit in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Samuel Corum/Getty

Senators from opposing political parties proposed legislation to change rules governing impeachment, while decrying partisan politics in play during recent impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Trump was acquitted in the Senate Wednesday on a largely partisan vote, with Sen. Mitt Romney being the only Republican to vote for the president's removal. A number of Democrats deemed the trial an unfair "sham" after GOP senators voted to block witnesses at the trial. Prior to the trial, Republicans had complained about the House proceedings, insisting unfair partisan politics led to Trump's impeachment on December 18.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced a Constitutional amendment Thursday that is designed to raise the threshold required to impeach a public official from a simple majority to a supermajority of 60 percent. Scott suggested the amendment was needed because Democrats had conducted a "partisan charade" by impeaching Trump.

"The partisan charade Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats made of this impeachment process over the last few months shows that the fears of our Founding Fathers were realized," said Scott in a statement. "They warned that impeachment could be used as a partisan tool by partisan actors."

"The Democrats used the impeachment process as a tool to hurt President Trump, regardless of the outcome of the Senate trial," Scott continued. "It's a dangerous precedent and the process has to change."

The likelihood of a constitutional amendment succeeding is low, with a two-thirds supermajority in both chambers of Congress and ratification by at least 38 states required. The last to be successfully ratified was the 27th amendment, which deals with Congressional salary rules. It became part of the Constitution in 1992, over 200 years after it was introduced.

Shortly before the Trump trial ended on Wednesday, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced that he would soon be introducing legislation designed to alter Senate rules in future impeachment trials. Changing Senate rules would not require a Constitutional amendment.

The proposed change would mandate the calling of witnesses and introduction of evidence in impeachment trials. The Trump impeachment trial was the first in history where witnesses were not allowed, which was one factor that led many Democrats to accuse Republicans of a partisan "cover-up."

"A trial without witnesses and documents is not a fair and full trial – it's a cover-up," Merkley said in a press release. "Whether information from relevant witnesses and documents should be considered in the course of a trial should never be a partisan question."

"That's why, following the conclusion of this trial, I will be introducing legislation that would ensure the right of both sides to call relevant witnesses and introduce relevant evidence in any future impeachment trial," he added.