Impeachment trial: Senators can’t seem to stay seated

But as time goes on, senators also appear to have grown increasingly restless as they’ve been confined for hours to the Senate chamber — and there have been more than a few empty seats at times during the proceedings.

Most of the absences are the result of senators getting up to stretch and walk around the chamber to get out of their seats after hours sitting or brief trips to the cloakrooms, rooms that can be accessed by doors directly off the floor of the chamber and serve as a place for members of each party to gather.

At around 10:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday evening, CNN counted roughly 20 empty seats as some members seemed to have momentarily left the room, while others had taken to standing at the back of the room in an apparent effort to stretch their legs after hours of sitting at their desks.

At various points, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina were standing on the GOP side of the chamber, while Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Gary Peters of Michigan and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut could be seen standing on the Democratic side.

Senators typically able to come and go when they please at the Capitol have been subject to a number of constraints during the trial.

There are rules against talking and a ban on electronic devices on the floor. Official decorum guidelines for the trial released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s offices also say that “senators should plan to be in attendance at all times during the proceedings.” The official guidelines don’t explicitly say that senators must be seated at all times, however.

As the evening wore on, the corner of the chamber became a popular spot on both sides for lawmakers to congregate, pace and hold quiet conversations. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand huddled in the corner at one point, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, was spotted pacing back and forth.

Heated debate over the ground rules for the impeachment trial pushed senators to stay in the chamber past midnight on Wednesday. As the hour grew later, several senators were struggling to keep their eyes open and yawns became more frequent.

As the trial goes on, senators can also been seen coming and going from the Democratic and Republican cloakrooms.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said on Wednesday morning that the Democratic cloakroom was filled with provisions. “It must have been a Costco dump in our cloakroom … everything was there,” he quipped to reporters.

By Wednesday afternoon, there were more empty seats.

Senators standing in the rear of the chamber at the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump; January 22, 2020

As of 3 p.m. ET, seats were mostly filled in the chamber, but by around 3:20 p.m. ET, not long before the trial went into a recess, CNN counted 17 empty seats across the entire chamber, including on both the GOP and Democratic side, though most were on the Republican side.

Some senators were out of their seats but still visibly in the chamber, standing at the back of the room, including Republican Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Barrasso and Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Richard Blumenthal also of Connecticut.

Later in the afternoon, Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, one of the House managers, noted the movement in the chamber and asked if senators wanted a break, and he wasn’t wrong — there was a lot of walking around and empty seats. CNN counted 25 vacant seats, 11 on Democratic side and 15 on the Republican side.

Several senators had taken to standing at their desks, hands on the top of their seats for support.

But when Crow suggested a break, there were several audible “no’s” from the senators — and the trial carried on.

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