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Stuck in their seats, senators confront trial tedium

Senate rules also ban all talking on the floor — a rule flouted by Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who began whispering and chuckling after Sasse slipped his neighbor a handwritten note. Later, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) worked to stifle laughter as he received a note from Sasse and Scott.

Throughout the day, many senators appeared restless during long, bogged-down debates and rehearsed speeches from both the House’s impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team. Several senators sat hunched with their arms crossed, twiddling pencils or rubbing their eyes.

Others twisted and turned in their seats, gazing up at the public gallery — where political celebrities like actress Alyssa Milano and former Sen. Jeff Flake sat in the front row — to keep boredom from settling in as lawyer after lawyer stood at the lectern to discuss trial rules. A few stifled yawns.

“I don’t think I’d be as apt to say that I could sit through 12 to 14 hours, or whatever it might be,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told reporters during the day’s second brief break, at 5 p.m. Originally, GOP leaders were considering a rules package that would have each side presenting opening arguments for 12 hours a day, several days in a row.

As Tuesday ticked on, several senators took copious notes, including Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of the chamber’s potential swing votes on Democrats’ push for more witness testimony and documents. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, another question mark for the GOP, sat beside Collins and stared intently at each speaker.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sat toward the front, his desk empty. A few desks away, on the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders sat with an empty yellow legal pad, fiddling with his hands and shuffling in his chair.

At one point, when a number of senators were coughing at once, Sanders pulled a tin of what looked like lozenges out of his pocket, put one in his mouth and read the back of the tin.

Each senator’s desk was covered with leather-bound a Moleskine notebook, agiant binder with a rainbow of tabs, and a legal pad.

Every few minutes, clerks fetched cups of water, boxes of tissues and wet wipes for members. Food and most beverages — including coffee — are banned in the chamber, limiting what senators can consume while they’re stuck in their seats for hours on end, although Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is famous for his well-stocked “candy drawer.”

Toomey even sent a basket of Pennsylvania-made goodies to the Capitol press gallery, including Hershey candies, Milky Way bars and Utz potato chips. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) also provided a box of full-size packs of peanut M&Ms for hungry reporters.

“Since we’ll be spending so much time here these next few days, I thought you guys might enjoy munching on some of Pennsylvania’s best snacks,” Toomey wrote in a note accompanying the basket. “These are the same ones I’ll be stocking the candy desk with.”

On the floor, many senators chomped on gum, including Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who pulled out a piece on the floor.

In the front of the room, members of the House impeachment manager’s team were crammed at a “C”-shaped table, where they exchanged papers and whispered to each other, with clerks with notes running in and out of the chamber.

Not every senator, however, completely parted with electronic devices: Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) were spotted wearing Apple Watches, which have can cellular capabilities — an apparent violation of the chamber rules.

Some of the Senate’s youngest members — and most prolific Twitter users — are refusing to stay off the grid for the entire day.

“Every day of the trial, I’m going [to] write a twitter thread and Facebook post giving my read on the day’s events (and some behind-the-scenes vignettes) in order to make sure the trial is as transparent as possible,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted last week.

Other senators, however, couldn’t wait until the end of the day to share their thoughts.

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