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Floyd M. Riddick: Senate Parliamentarian

Floyd M. Riddick

“…the Committee didn't want the public to think that the Senate had made a foregone conclusion that there was going to be an impeachment.”

Former Senate parliamentarian Floyd Riddick discusses the closed sessions of the Senate Rules Committee during the Summer of 1974 in anticipation of a Senate impeachment trial of President Richard Nixon.

Ritchie: I guess, then, you first became deeply involved in this during the summer of 1974, when it began to look that the House of Representatives would go ahead and impeach the president. Was that about the time?

Riddick: That is correct. The Senate did not start until the second session of the 93rd Congress to take it seriously. Early that spring there was talk of the possibility, but the Senate really didn't get down to brass tacks until later in the summer. As a matter of fact, the issue had been raised that since the impeachment process had not been used much, and since this was most vital if they did get down to considering the impeachment of President Nixon that this set of rules that had been in existence for roughly a hundred years should be reexamined as far as procedure was concerned. And as a consequence, the Senate, on July 29, 1974, adopted Senate Resolution 370, directing the Committee on Rules and Administration to review "any and all existing rules and precedents that apply to impeachment trials with a view to recommending any revisions, if necessary, which may be required if the Senate is called upon" to try President Nixon.

Ritchie: Did you talk to Senator Mansfield and others before they adopted that resolution about the problems? Did they express their concern to you?

Riddick: Oh, yes. They raised questions as to what would be the established procedure, which I might mention later caused me to start preparing and consolidating information that the Rules Committee later wanted, which was printed as a Senate Document entitled "Procedures and Guidelines for Impeachment Trials in the United States Senate." So way in the early part of the summer I began to do research in this regard, and even instructed one of my assistants, Bob Dove, to spend full time practically on doing research and getting stuff together for me to work with him on later, when we got the Congress out of the way and had more time to do it.

Well, that Resolution provided that such review be held entirely in executive session, and that the Committee on Rules and Administration report its recommendations back to the Senate not later than September 1 of '74. It was a good thing, because you see the reason for wanting to keep it in closed session was to give it very little publicity as to what they were going to do, or when they were going to meet, and so forth, because the Committee didn't want the public to think that the Senate had made a foregone conclusion that there was going to be an impeachment. But at the same time, the Senate didn't want to wait until an impeachment occurred and then find itself not ready and equipped to do the job properly.

Continue reading Riddick’s interview