Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts told Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Friday that he would not act as a tie-breaker if the Senate becomes deadlocked with a 50-50 split during President Trump‘s impeachment trial.
Schumer began by asking Roberts if he was aware that Chief Justice Samuel Chase cast tie-breaking votes during President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial in the 1860s.
“I have a parliamentary inquiry,” Schumer said. “Is the chief justice aware that in the impeachment trial of President Johnson, Chief Justice Chase, as presiding officer, cast tie-breaking votes on both March 31 and April 2, 1868?”
Roberts said he was aware of Chase’s actions but explained that the issues he sought to resolve were minor. He also said he did not believe Chase’s votes were enough to establish a firm precedent for him to act on.
“The one [vote] concerned a motion to adjourn. The other [vote] concerned a motion to close deliberations,” Roberts replied. “I do not regard those isolated episodes 150 years ago, as sufficient to support a general authority to break ties.”
The George W. Bush appointee said the responsibility to resolve impeachment issues falls on the Senate because that’s what they were elected to do.
“If the members of this body, elected by the people and accountable to them, divide equally on a motion — the normal rule is that the motion fails,” he added.
“I think it would be inappropriate for me, an unelected official from a different branch of government, to assert the power to change that result so that the motion would succeed.”
The Senate voted 51-49 on Friday to reject a motion to call witnesses during the trial, moving Trump one step closer to an acquittal.
The trial is expected to wrap up next week.