Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the past few months, you’re probably well-aware that President Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives. During that time, he’s called the impeachment everything from a “witch hunt” to a hoax that all started with a “perfect phone call.” But on Tuesday, the impeachment trial moved to the Senate where Trump will be evaluated on criminal charges. The big news around the trial’s kick off, though, had less to do with the charges and more to do with the rules in place for everyone in chambers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earned the nickname “midnight Mitch” for trying to dictate those after hours rules, and so far we know that there will be no cameras, no phones, but lots of…milk?
Yes, that’s right. While the world’s “greatest deliberative body” (Chief Justice John Roberts’ words, not mine) listens to the case against Trump, they are forbidden from consuming just about anything on the Senate floor. Snacks are out of the question, and meal breaks are usually only 30 minutes long. But milk is on the table — literally.
Even though the senators have a historically important task at hand — it’s not every day you decide the fate of a sitting president — sitting still for hours on end without proper sustenance would prove to be challenging for most people. Fortunately, there are a few exceptions to the rule: Hangry senators have the option of drinking good ol’ fashioned water or milk in the chamber. (Rumor has it, they can also munch on some candy from the so-called “candy drawer.”)
During impeachment coverage today, I’d like to find out why senators are allowed to sip milk on the floor, but no other beverage but water. 2%, whole, and skim all allowed? Almond and soy milk, too? Or will the Wisconsin delegation object that they’re not really milk?— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) January 23, 2020
So, why, exactly is milk a thing during the impeachment trial? Water makes sense — hydration is key for everyone, even stubborn senators who vote against having witnesses in a trial — but why milk? Well, like most congressional rules, it stemmed from something pretty random and arbitrary. It all began back in 1966 (as pictured above), when Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois got especially thirsty and asked if a Senate page could bring him a glass of milk, reports NPR.
“There is nothing in the rules to prohibit the Senator from requesting a glass of milk,” the presiding officer responded, unknowingly creating a rule that’s become known as “milk while speaking.”
But these days, milk can be enjoyed in the chamber regardless of whether a senator is actually addressing their peers or simply chillin’ in their seat during an impeachment trial. According to NPR, Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Richard Burr, and Ted Cruz are among those who have partaken in milk consumption on the Senate floor so far. Because, as we have now learned, the milk exception was literally written into the Senate’s procedure rules by McConnell and associates.
With day three of the trial set to continue today, it’s likely that we’ll receive even more reports of parched senators reaching for a nice, cold glass of creamy goodness. Up to this point, votes on trial rules have been almost strictly along party lines. The real question, though, is whether the legislative body’s preferred dairy alternative is almond or oat — we are, after all, living in the post-milk generation. Perhaps the senators can reach a bipartisan consensus on at least that much, but they still except a swift decision on Trump’s removal from office, at the very least.
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