US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: With Impeachment Behind Us, It’s Time to get Back to Work for South Dakotans

With Impeachment Behind Us, It’s Time to get Back to Work for South Dakotans
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

The Senate recently voted to acquit the president of the two Articles of Impeachment sent to us by the House of Representatives, falling 19 and 20 votes short of the 67 needed to remove him from office. I voted against the articles of impeachment, in keeping with the constitutional intent our framers expected.

Throughout the process, I listened carefully as the House Managers and the president’s defense team made their cases to the Senate, taking over 130 pages of notes over the course of the trial. I also studied the text of the Constitution related to impeachment and our Founding Fathers’ intent when they included it in our constitutional framework. This historical context is important to understanding why the House failed to make its case in removing the president from office.

Our Founding Fathers included impeachment in the Constitution after much deliberation – to be used only as a last resort. They also put great thought into the impeachment process. They trusted the Senate, requiring more solemn judgement than their counterparts in the House, to decide whether an allegation by the House has the substantiality to require removal from office.

While the Senate does not have the power to impeach, it does have the authority to judge the sufficiency of articles presented to it. The Senate, as a trier of facts, should not overstep its role. It is the House’s responsibility to bring the evidence to make its case, not simply make an allegation. This does not mean that the Senate cannot call witnesses, but it most certainly should not be the Senate’s obligation to do so because the House failed to do its job in the first place.

Upon the founding of the Senate, James Madison explained that the Senate would be a “necessary fence” against the “fickleness and passion” that tended to influence the attitudes of the general public and members of the House of Representatives. George Washington is said to have told Thomas Jefferson that the framers had created the Senate to ‘cool’ House legislation, just as a saucer was used to cool hot tea.

For impeachment, there can be no difference.

When the House is ignited by partisan passions, eager to reach a desired result, the Senate must be cool and firm in its heightened review.

In recognizing the haste and half-hearted attempt by our colleagues in the House, I also recognize these articles of impeachment to be wholly insufficient, not warranting a removal from office. The rightful place for such a decision to be made is with the American electorate at the ballot box.

From the beginning, the Senate conducted a fair, impartial trial. Senators asked 180 questions, 28,578 pages of documents were made available to us and we watched 193 video clips. We did our due diligence and fulfilled our constitutional duty. And now that the impeachment process is behind us, we can get on with the work the American people sent us here to do: improve the lives of hardworking families. Impeaching an elected official is incredibly serious, as it effectively overturns the will of the American electorate. The House failed miserably to make its case, and the Senate rightly voted to acquit the president.